Thanksgiving and Remembering Cruel Truths

CRUELTRUTH“Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.” – Edward Abbey

With Thanksgiving arriving in just hours, I have had a lot of people asking me about how I view the holiday for two reasons: one, because of my native ancestry and, two, because of my views on eating meat.  In thinking about the answers to give, I realized these kinds of questions are so frequently posed out of a universal ignorance that I blame the American education system for.  Our schools don’t teach American Indian history nearly to the depth of its potential, the views are biased and often incorrect, and there exists a common lackluster outlook on American Indian history in general, borne primarily of the uninformed assumption that no American Indians could have influenced American modern history.  Thus I decided to combine a short bit of my view on the holiday with this quote about the truth.

Edward Abbey, a fellow Pennsylvanian, was a writer and advocate in environmental issues, land policies, etc.  As you can imagine, he was very in-tune with discovering his own truths and acknowledging where real problems lie.  He reminds us that the truth is often a bitter pill to swallow, but living a lie is only disguising a lingering ache.  Sometimes, you’re better off just taking the blow making the best out of what you have.  So how can we apply this in daily life?  I say, look for the real truth, the honest hidden reasons and motivations behind everything around you, whether it be political, religious, or even just an action done by someone you do or don’t know.  Don’t settle on the easy explanation for anything, and don’t let yourself be biased by other peoples’ gullibility.  Become an active truth-seeker.  But I would also like to add this: Don’t be too arrogant to turn your head on your own mistakes.  If you’re called out on something, consider why, step back and honestly evaluate yourself and your actions, and don’t take offense.  Instead, learn how to improve upon it and better yourself, and even give thanks for the criticism.  It will make you a better person…yet, if only I could follow my own advice…

But how does this tie in to Thanksgiving?

As I mentioned, a lot of American history seems to have a filter on it to me, a filter that glorifies and burns the deeds of the government and which ignores and dodges the truth of the American Indian contributions to said history.  (And see what I did there?  “Burns”, “dodges’,.. it’s a photography darkroom reference…).  When the “Pilgrims” arrived, they were starving Englishmen.  They didn’t encounter “the Native Americans”, they were approached by the Wampanoags, a single tribe from the area at that time.  This tribe had many relations with other tribes in the region and farther, so strangers speaking another language and some culture shock was not a new concept for them.  Regardless of how the actual events unfurled that cause us to celebrate this single feast, Thanksgiving represents the Pilgrims’ absolute reliance on the Wampanoags for survival.  The Wampanoags showed them how to live off of their land and provided for them the very foods that contribute to the classic holiday meal.  The original feast was meant to recognize the knowledge- and resource-rich Wampanoag breaking equal bread with the impoverished, desolate Pilgrims and their thankfulness for each other.  Instead, the Pilgrims fell out of peaceful relations with the Wampanoags and thus began a long history of Indian oppression by the immigrants.  And although helping the Pilgrims probably didn’t affect the inevitable waves of subsequent immigrants and their hostile reactions towards American tribes, the actions of the Wampanoags certainly demonstrates the truth of their intentions and the willingness to share their sustainable, earth-appreciating practices to reap the benefits of their sacred homelands.

Yet today… today, Americans stuff their faces with these mass-produced, widely-shipped foods, losing touch with the original varieties and instead falling in love with altered, modified, and added-to versions of classic dishes.  Incredible amounts of fuel are burned to transport people in poor weather conditions all across this large, assimilated country – one that is deprived of the original cultures that helped sustain its first peoples.  Not only that, but the adulterated modern Christmas, filled with presents instead of family and tradition, is slowly flooding into the November holiday.  If Black Friday weren’t disgusting enough, now Christmas is trying to sell itself early and selfish, greedy shoppers are buying useless gifts everyone (including themselves!) instead of actually learning to appreciate and be thankful for what they have.  There is really nothing much left to the holiday, as originally intended…

Why do we not learn about these differences or address these problems?  Why do people so obsessed with these sales fail to see any way around it?  That is largely in part due to the cruel truth behind the events which unfurled and the improper education perpetuating half-truths.  It is a kind of denial against the problems of our past which now amplify our problems today.  And these problems continue to grow, but none will be fixed until we can acknowledge these problems and use them to correct ourselves.  There’s no need to live in a comfortable delusion…



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