Monday, October 14, 2019

Generous Hosts on Thanksgiving

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Canadian and American Thanksgiving celebrations are six weeks apart but the themes for both are similar. European settlers in North America established feasts of gratitude for life in a new land. Over time these thanksgiving events were incorporated into services of worship and the ecumenical lectionary offers Thanksgiving Sunday readings that are the same for both countries but at different times. We have harvest hymns which are a combination of European and North American sensibilities. 

None of those hymns acknowledge or celebrate the hospitality of First Nations. I'll admit that I never took the opportunity over four decades in congregational ministry to focus on the contributions of Indigenous peoples to the survival and well-being of those original settlers. 

Americans do acknowledge that the Wampanoag First Nation saved the Pilgrims from starvation but they are more of a backdrop to the story than generous heroes. We see this in the painting below where Native people sit meekly, most of them well away from the table and the pious prayers. 

There is a parallel for the Canadian Thanksgiving where Mikmaq people likely taught Champlain and his company ice-fishing techniques and introduced them to a vital non-toxic berry rich in vitamin C. We sure weren't told about this when I was in grade school a lifetime ago. 

As it happens, today, which is Canadian Thanksgiving is Columbus Day in the States, the celebration of the "discovery of North America. In some jurisdictions, including Washington DC, this has been changed to Indigenous Peoples Day, which is a step in the right direction. Perhaps we can all take a moment for reflection and prayers of gratitude for those generous hosts who refrained from saying "there goes the neighbourhood!"

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