Every year, on the fourth Thursday of November, many Americans gather with their families to eat a feast of yams, pumpkin pie and turkey, and give thanks for the year.
The modern holiday has its roots in a story from 1621. After English settlers struggled to survive the winter, the neighbouring Wampanoag tribe taught them about fishing, hunting, and working the land. After a successful harvest, both communities sat down together to share a feast.
This feast is believed to be the first Thanksgiving, but it is a controversial story as it suggests that the settlers and the American Indian tribes continued to live in harmony. In fact, since 1621, millions of indigenous peoples have been killed or forcibly moved from their land by white colonists.
Today, many choose to celebrate the holiday whilst acknowledging its troubling history. As activist Alaina Comeaux, of the Atakapa-Ishak tribe, says, “What’s wrong with Thanksgiving is not so much the celebration as the American mythology that surrounds it.”
What remains important is coming together to appreciate life, food, and family. Many cultures around the world have similar celebrations – from the “Erntedankfest” in Germany, which celebrates successful harvests, to the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, during which offerings are burned to the Harvest Moon.
What are you thankful for this year?
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- On a sheet of paper, write down the things for which you are grateful. Explain why.
- Design a greetings card for a new Thanksgiving holiday where you live.
- Most American Indians prefer to be referred to by their specific tribe name. Research an American Indian tribe and create a presentation about its history and how its members live today.