Teachable Moment

teachable moment: an event or experience which presents a good opportunity for learning something about a particular aspect of life.

The upcoming celebration of Thanksgiving provides teachable moments, opportunities to learn more ourselves, and teach our children the authentic history of this country.

In his lectures and his new book, In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Pawnee attorney, Walter Echo-Hawk, draws on many wisdom traditions to offer these five steps toward healing when wrongdoing has occurred and people have been injured by it:

  • Recognize that harm has been done: acknowledge that injury or harm has taken place
  • A real apology is sincerely made and forgiveness requested: the person or institution that harmed another apologizes in a sincere and appropriate way, admits the specific harmful actions they have committed, and asks for forgiveness
  • Accepting the apology and forgiving the wrongdoer: the harmed person or community accepts the apology and forgives
  • Acts of atonement; the process of making things right: the parties agree on voluntary acts of atonement by the wrongdoer that will wipe the slate clean
  • Healing and reconciliation: the atonement acts are carried out in a process that fosters justice and compassion and genuine friendship

The first step above is to recognize that harm has been done. I recognize, and ask you to recognize that White myths taught to children about Thanksgiving are an example of colonization and wrongdoing. I myself apologize for this and would like to request forgiveness, although this must really be done when we are in each other’s presence.

… historical trauma impacts us on the individual and collective level. We cannot decolonize without centering the impact of trauma in our organizing. Rather than privatize our traumas, how can we rearticulate trauma as place from which to develop what Million calls “felt theory” – a place from which to understand our social and political conditions?

…when we center healing, we remember that our struggles for social justice are not just about opposing things we do not like, but building the world we would actually like to live in.

Decolonizing Trauma by Andrea Smith, Sojourners, 9/19/2016

It is my hope that sharing these blog posts might be a step of atonement, and part of a process of making things right. Following is an excerpt from my friend, Christine Nobiss’s blog post cited below.

An essential part of decolonizing Thanksgiving is to start educating our children with the authentic history of this country. A book that re-examines basic “truths” about Thanksgiving in an educational context is Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years. Considering that much of the Thanksgiving mythology is based on sharing food, it is ideal to discuss the importance of Indigenous first foods or food sovereignty with our children as well. The book Four Seasons of Corn: A Winnebago Tradition discusses the traditional process of growing and harvesting corn, de-commercializing what we eat, and promoting culturally appropriate foods and agricultural systems of North America. Decolonizing Thanksgiving: A Toolkit for Combatting Racism in Schools is a quick read where more resources are listed; it even has sample letters that can be sent to your children’s school concerning problematic Thanksgiving activities.

Thanksgiving Promotes Whitewashed History, So I Organized Truthsgiving Instead by Christine Nobiss, Bustle, Nov 16, 2018.

In response to yesterday’s blog post, my friend and Bear Creek Meeting attender, Shazi Knight, shared some of her experiences related to Thanksgiving and the public school her child attends.

Thanks for your email regarding Thanksgiving, Truth giving. Prairie came home with some library books on the current Euro America Thanksgiving story. I read one story and I had to stop right there. We had a discussion about the different versions of Thanksgiving. We have had many talks about native Americans and the truth of history. I told her I would get some other books to illustrate the whole truth, and I instantly thought of you and Christine N. I’ll be looking into the books she suggested.

I have found it a fun and hopeful challenge to create the new narrative and tradition in my budding family unit within the larger circle of society, especially that of small town Iowa. Being a part of Bear Creek and our open minded truth centered family helps me do this greatly.

I usually have centered our holy day traditions around Nature. Thanksgiving being about the abundance of the fall harvest, Christmas about the returning of the Light and lengthening of days, Easter the spring equinox and the rebirth of Nature. Culture and Nature share such a wonderful interplay.

Shazi Knight
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