For most of us, Thanksgiving is nothing more than a time of celebration with our friends and loved ones. A sharing of food and good times, and a time of being thankful for the blessings and bounty we have received. We all remember the stories of the first Thanksgiving that we were taught back in school, but tragically there’s a lot more to it than that. As I live among the Menominee, Ojibwe (Chippewa), Potawatomi, and Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) peoples, who are among the original inhabitants of these woods. For these people, Thanksgiving also bears a very different meaning, a time of mourning and honoring their ancestors.
You see shortly after the Thanksgiving celebrations between the two that we all know of, things between the European settlers and the Native American tribes began to change. Most of us have never been taught about the genocide of Native people by the millions that happened in the years afterward, as well as the theft of their graves, food, and Native lands. So for me, Thanksgiving truly originates from the Native Americans’ belief in giving without expecting anything in return, and an honoring with gratitude for the Wampanoag tribe. For it is they who provided this first meal we all know of as Thanksgiving, as well as their vital knowledge in hunting and agriculture to our ancestor settlers of 1621. I serve cornbread stuffing, cranberries, wild rice, and turkey for my meal, as these foods were introduced by the Native Americans. I honor the storytelling and healing of these great people, for they are the true reason for thanks… Food for thought.