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November 26, 2009



Pilgrim Edward Winslow described the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving in these words:

"Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling [bird hunting] so that we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as... served the company almost a week... Many of the Indians [came] amongst us and... their greatest King, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought... And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet BY THE GOODNESS OF GOD WE ARE... FAR FROM WANT."

The history of Thanksgiving in America bagan in 1607 but the first Thanksgiving feast took place in 1621 - NOT because the native Americans lost, but because the Pilgrims were grateful to them for their help! These native Americans helped with food and supplies for the Pilgrims' survival. And they celebrated together.
Happy Thanksgiving!


Ah, thanks for the shout-out, Leigh! I had to evaluate my feelings about Thanksgiving after writing that essay, and I'm glad I did. The starving vs. feasting idea really stuck with me, so powerful.

C. Russo

I agree with you Leigh! I love the family coming together and the big feast which takes place; but I feel, all to often, people forget about the lives lost. I feel that we should all be giving thanks and acknowledging all those lives which were lost.

The bigger bone I have to pick with this 'holiday' is that we shouldn't have to wait for one particular day of the year to give thanks for everything we're grateful for. That should be something we do on a continuous basis, not just once a year. Perhaps it's just me though.

Either way, great post as usual. For those who couldn't take it, to bad. Their lost, not yours ;-).

Abrazos a todos,


Hi Leigh... I just read a great piece, "Minority Death Match," in the September issue of Harper's on reparations. Naomi Klein wrote about a UN conference on racism that the Obama administration and several other governments around the world boycotted for false accusations of anti-Semitism. The interesting point though was that in 2001, just before 9/11, the first conference was held in Durban and ended with a claim that the transatlantic slave trade was a crime against humanity and called for reparations. She points out that reparations in the States have lost in courts because of the statute of limitations, but crimes against humanity do not have statutes of limitations.

Anyway, more to the point today... the conference was boycotted by several governments and Klein suggests that they knew the anti-Semitism accusations were bogus. But since they didn't really want to go to a racism conference and have to deal with the question of reparations, this excuse was as good as any. It's a great read.

I don't know how reparations would work and part of me thinks that it would begin a never-ending cycle of one group claiming another group owes them something. It seems a UN conference on racism and on just how to "pay back" the debt (whether in money or other actions) would be a good place to debate the issues and come up with a solution that would stick. Too bad it was boycotted.

I agree with Russo... their loss, not yours!


I don't believe there should be reparations for things that took place so long ago. The world was a different place then. As Angela says it would be neverending. Should the UK sue Italy for the Roman occupation? Better to deal with the here and now and support those who are disadvantaged for whatever reason.


Thanksgiving is a fun holiday where we enjoy with our friends and family members to give thanks. I believe if you are thinking about past you might not look at brighter future. These days its celebrated with Joy so enjoy and have fun.

Ana O'Reilly

Wow! did people really unsubscribe because of this post? I enjoyed it and see your point, although maybe the fact that I'm not from the US originally has something to do with my not being offended by your words.

Ani Soruco

Fuuhhhh (sight) here is another Ana to say I really enjoy to read it. And i would always subscribe and subscribe to meet your critic point of view. Kisses!


This is a great post, Leigh and I can't believe people unsubscribed either. We are all in total denial of things that have happened in the past that we are benefiting from now. I always had these unexplained feelings that something wasn't right about events like Thanksgiving even when I was a child and had to dress up in "pilgrim" clothes at school. I was obsessed with Native American lore and couldn't understand why we never adopted any of "their" customs. I remember adults not being able to answer my questions and just thought it was because my grandparents were from Poland, not America so they didn't know about that kind of thing. Now I know it's simply because there is a lot that has been left out of our (and other countries too!)history books. We need to grow up and accept that, of course, not everything that happened in the past could be perfect. That's just not possible. It's important to ask questions. That is what the United States was originally meant to stand for, was it not? Asking questions and finding the best way forward.

True, there is no way to go back and make everything right, be we should be thinking about positive actions we can take from this point onward. Thanksgiving could be a great time of healing to reflect on those issues.


shocked as well that people unsubscribed. very thoughtful post, leigh. and god, the conversation with noah echoes so many conversations i've had with my partner. thanks for bringing me here.

Leigh Shulman

It's weird, because I know I responded to many of the comments on this post, but now they're gone.

I don't remember everything I said previously, but I will say that reparations do make sense to me. Particularly in relation to Native Americans, because there are still many things going on within the US today that are unjust.

In which case, I guess it's not really reparations as much as just doing the right thing.

And yes, people did indeed unsubscribe because of this post. It shocked me at first. Made me wonder why those people subscribed to my blog in the first place. Because I think it's pretty clear that I'm someone who wants to see equal treatment for all people. And what happened in the US (as with so many countries on this planet) is not equal.

But off my soap box. For now. ;)

Leigh Shulman

I feel like that's one story we tell, and while there is some truth to it, there are so many people who currently live in conditions that remind them every day of the widespread destruction of the people who lived on the US continent bf it was the United States.

I just don't think it's right to entirely ignore that.

ALl that said, it's not that Native Americans have one monolithic opinion about this, either.

Leigh Shulman

Maybe a fast isn't a bad idea for the holiday. Still allows you to focus on the good parts of life, but it's so much easier to overlook the complicated parts of this holiday when you spend the whole day in the kitchen cooking.

Leigh Shulman

As always, thanks for your input and insight (And compliments).

Totally agree that it's important to be thankful every day of our lives. It's just too bad those people jumped ship and didn't bother saying why. At least it would have opened discussion.

Leigh Shulman

Any chance you still have that Harper's article at your place? I'd love to read it. Otherwise, I'll do a search.

And you make a very good point re the UN conference. Although I do often wonder how much good the UN does on that end. Sometimes, it seems that they make a bunch of declarations and then have a bunch of meetings, and I'm not sure why.

I'd love to be shown wrong on that end, though. Because they have a lot of money, and there's the potential for so much positive.

Leigh Shulman

What about reparations that correct current wrongs?

One example: The Badlands in South Dakota technically on paper even according to the US government belong to the Lakota Sioux people. But it's set aside as national park land. (Mount Rushmore).

Perhaps actually give it back? Figure a way to share it? Something else?

Leigh Shulman

I agree you can't live in the past, but when your past so painfully effects your present, it is hard to ignore.

Much of Indian culture was effectively wiped out by colonization. There are some tribes that no longer exist. Others that only have one or two people left. Homes, land, life and choice was taken away.

I don't feel right overlooking that to celebrate in joy.

I do tend to ascribe to the forgive and move on belief, but some things must be addressed before it is possible to move on.

Leigh Shulman

It's possible. Maybe the same for me. I was born in South Africa, although I've spend the vast majority of my life in the US and think of myself as American (US citizen, anyway).

I think people hear criticism in my words and don't see past that. Often, i think that is taken as being against something. I think of it as corrective. In the same way I might tell myself to eat better or stop getting frustrated with my mother or to be more grateful for the things in my life.

And sometimes, it's difficult to address really big wrongs we've done.

Leigh Shulman

Besos, to you too, Ani. Gracias!!

Leigh Shulman

Perfectly said, Marie. I couldn't say it better.

Leigh Shulman

Hey Simone,

What's your take on those conversations?

I find them frustrating, but in a way, it's refreshing to hear him so honestly yet dispassionately discuss these issues. He makes no apologies as to the destructive nature of these histories.

The part that's difficult for me is that it feels like he's saying we have to accept it. Perhaps there is some truth to that.

It's not a simple issue.

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