Thanksgiving Traditions: How our family celebrates today.

In my family, Thanksgiving is a complicated holiday. For many Americans it is a time to spend with family, but also a time to reminisce about “Pilgrims and Indians” and the story of the “first Thanksgiving feast”. However, for other families, like mine, it is a reminder of the genocide and atrocities that soon followed the first Thanksgiving.

My family is racially complex and part of our identity belongs to a North American Indigenous tribe (Blackfeet Nation). Similarly to many people of color in the United States, my family history is full of instances of terror and inequality. Unfortunately, it is rare for any American holiday to be without reminders of the past that people of color have had to endure.

Despite this, we persist and celebrate our history and our survival. My family chooses to celebrate Thanksgiving our way. We come together to celebrate the gift of family and friends. We celebrate our ancestors by telling their stories while we prepare our feast with recipes that have been handed down through generations.  We celebrate the accomplishments and growth we have had during the past year. We celebrate our present and the blessings that we have received during our lifetimes. We also remember.

We remember our past and we remember what those who came before us had to go through and we honor their memory by always telling our children the truth of what Thanksgiving means to us. We don’t have the privilege of ignoring the history of pain behind this holiday. Remembering also brings us closer as a family and reminds us to be proud of where we come from.

This Thanksgiving will look very different from past Thanksgivings because most of my family will not be in the same place together. However, there is comfort knowing that we will all be eating the same foods and sharing the same thoughts, being grateful for our health and each other.

If you are celebrating today, I wish you a day of gratitude and happiness.

Xx Mari

PS. If you have any questions about Thanksgiving and my experiences with Thanksgiving please feel free to ask. The holiday means something different to every family and every family celebrates differently.

For some stories about how another family celebrates Thanksgiving check out Courtney’s posts here and here.


Comments (6)

Mariam in Germany
November 26, 2020

Thanks for sharing, Mari. And, wishing the same to you and yours: gratitude and happiness! x

Mari in Chicago
November 30, 2020

Thank you Mariam!

November 27, 2020

Mari thx u for sharing. I would love your perspective on children’s’ book recommendations that can help us appreciate and reflect on indigenous authors or characters.

Mari in Chicago
November 30, 2020

Hi Rachel! Thank you for reading! There are over 500 Indigenous tribes in the United States and each tribe is separate and distinct, with different cultural elements. I think it is important to recognize that when reading books about Indigenous people. Keeping that in mind here are a few books I can suggest with a bit of tribal variety:

1) Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith
2) Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard
3) We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom
4) We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrel
5) Bowwow Powwow by Brenda Childs
6) First Laugh–Welcome, Baby! by Rose Ann Tahe

Also, when looking for books about Indigenous people that include tribal culture, it is important to make sure that the author is also Indigenous. Otherwise, the story may be romanticized rather than based on cultural knowledge.

I hope these suggestions help!

November 27, 2020

Thank you for sharing this, I think you have summarised beautifully the balance between honouring the complicated cultural aspects of this holiday alongside the potentially positive elements too.

Mari in Chicago
November 30, 2020

Hi Ashley! Thank you so much for your sentiments! I am so pleased to hear that I was able to convey the difficult balance of the Thanksgiving holiday.

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