Monday, October 09, 2017

Whose Thanksgiving?

Image result for pilgrims and natives thanksgiving

Those of us who've grown up in Canada know the Thanksgiving experience and that our American neighbours celebrate the occasion at a different time in the Fall. The US Thanksgiving also has a different mythological emphasis, with gratitude to the aboriginal peoples who helped the pilgrims survive through the first difficult seasons in a new land. Of course the reward for this generosity in Canada and the States was to spread deadly diseases and steal their land. It doesn't seem like a fair trade, does it?

An article in the Toronto Star today offers an interesting historical perspective on our Canadian Thanksgiving, noting that our version was originally a solemn and pious occasion. All businesses closed for the day, and church services were the only activities of note. It may have been the response of mid-19th Protestant clergy to the disturbing ideas of Charles Darwin. Thanksgiving was a way to affirm the blessings of the Creator in the face of a theory of evolution. It also affirmed the Britishness of the colony. Over time the American traditions of family gatherings and turkey feasts infiltrated the Canadian holiday.

This weekend I've been thinking a lot about First Nations in this country and what mixed feelings many of them may have about this holiday. I reflected on our summer month on Change Islands, Newfoundland and my growing awareness while there of the proto-Eskimo (pre-Inuit) and Beothuk Indian peoples who would summer on these islands and others to fish and hunt. The Beothuks were hunted to extinction by European settlers even though they were not an aggressive people. While first contact might not have been as extreme in other parts of the country, it was nothing to brag about.

Last week we heard more about the troubles within the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, as well as a Supreme Court ruling about keeping the testimony of those who testified at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Surely we desire a nation where all can give thanks, and where we can work toward equality, and justice and reconciliation. I pray for this as a Christian who appreciates the gifts of the Creator.

Happy Thanksgiving.



Judy said...

Although I grew up with the American Thanksgiving story in school as the "root" for our celebrations, I learned at a young age, from my parents, that our Canadian festival was more of a harvest festival, like that celebrated in Britain.... it was more about being grateful for the fruits of the earth in the season where many of the gifts of the earth were harvested. That is still the focus for me.

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