Enjoying Thanksgiving/Truthsgiving

Some of the responses to my recent blog posts ask why we can’t just enjoy being together and thankful at Thanksgiving (Truthsgiving) time? That, of course, is what should happen.

In addition, though, if the circumstances allow, this holiday is an opportunity to talk about what really happened, and continues to happen, to the Native people who were here before the White settlers.

Indigenous people and settlers share a history — some of us are survivors of that history, some of us benefited from it, and some of us carry both survival and benefits through our ancestors. This deep historical conflict divides all our relations from one another and ourselves. To heal and move forward from this history, we need to know what happened so that we can better recognize how to decolonize our minds, our hearts, and our actions.


The following are the goals of the Friends who are working on the ideas of decolonizing. They have created the website Decolonizing Quakers to share resources for us to use as we work on these goals.

  • Learn, receive, own, and act upon the truth of Quaker history with Indigenous Peoples, to explore the wounds resulting from this history for all peoples impacted, learn how to move toward healing those wounds, and engage in actions that recognize the dignity of all those concerned;
  • Support each other practically and spiritually as we work on this concern as individuals, and in our efforts to raise awareness within the broader Quaker community;
  • Offer support, information, and resources for non-Indigenous Quakers to help them discern and develop relationships of greater integrity with Indigenous Peoples, within and beyond the Quaker community;
  • Acknowledge, honor and respect Indigenous ways of knowing that offer non-Western/non-colonial paradigms, including potential approaches to environmental, social, economic and spiritual conditions that threaten us all;
  • Walk respectfully in ways that increase cultural integrity and justice for Indigenous governments, communities, and for the Earth.

We understand our call to be part of a broader call to address the spiritual distortion of racism, the societal heritage of colonization, and the domination paradigm of human beings within the Earth community.

The steering committee has met monthly since July 2018 and has wrestled with a statement of purpose that has evolved as its members have acknowledged the complex interconnectedness of issues: The North American experience shares commonalities with the dismissal and attempted erasure of Indigenous Peoples worldwide and particularly, with English-colonized countries like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The work of decolonizing the mindsets, patterns, and cultural domination of those who have benefited from colonization and of decolonizing the minds, patterns, and cultural subordination and attempted erasure of those who have suffered from colonization are different, interconnected, and necessary. Some of this work needs to proceed independently without causing further injury to Indigenous Peoples by placing a burden on Native peoples to “educate” European-Americans, and yet has to proceed in relationship with and following the leadership of Native peoples.

The decolonizing that needs to take place, both the educating and the healing, are matters of urgency to the survival of the human species and the health of the Earth as Mother of us All. Part of our struggle has been to define a mission and purpose that can remain sufficiently focused to be effective and at the same time recognize that it is only a part of a broader vision of healing.


My friend Christine Nobiss writes:

It’s past time to honor the Indigenous resistance, tell our story as it really happened, and undo romanticized notions of the holiday that have long suppressed our perspective. As an Indigenous decolonizer, I call this time of year the Season of Resistance. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I ask you to please take the time to educate your peers about Thanksgiving’s real history; to support Native people as they resist the narrative of the holiday; and to organize or host alternatives to this holiday.

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

I hope you enjoy your Truthsgiving holiday with friends and family. I am very familiar with the dynamics that mean certain topics have to be avoided to keep the peace. But if we don’t begin these difficult conversations sometime, the injustices continue. There comes a time when we need to take risks. The Inner Light will guide you.

If your Thanksgiving holiday involves sharing what you’re thankful for, or reflecting on those who couldn’t be with you, spend some time acknowledging the people who suffered thanks to European settlement that the Thanksgiving myth venerates. It’s possible to observe the holiday in a spirit of gratefulness, but don’t ignore the very real pain of the indigenous people who were here before any other Americans. Whether it’s a prayer or a moment of silence, add a moment of reflection to your holiday to remember the lives lost because of colonization

How To Observe Thanksgiving While Acknowledging The Holiday’s Messed Up History by AYANA LAGE, Bustle, Nov 15, 2017

From my years of experience in working for justice, I’ve come to conclude that we just can’t make progress until we acknowledge the fundamental injustices of the enslavement of African Americans, the cultural genocide of Native Americans, and the power structure and privilege of White males. Until we do, the same obstacles will be thrown in our way over and over again.

You might not be able to bring these things up with family and friends this year. Decolonizing begins with ourselves. The Decolonizing Quakers website has a series of steps to help you with your own decolonization. https://www.decolonizingquakers.org/resources/

This entry was posted in decolonize, enslavement, Indigenous, Native Americans, Quaker, Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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