Pastor Gayle’s Reflections
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“With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans, and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them, too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks.”
—Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address
I am writing this in the middle of the month, so that it is ready for publication before I return from vacation. It is just a couple of days after Indigenous Peoples Day and a group of ecumenical clergy and lay leaders have already met to plan for Thanksgiving. These things are not unconnected in my mind; we ought not celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday without acknowledging the historical and continuing contributions of indigenous Americans, and the horrifyingly tragic consequences of colonialism on indigenous people and the environment. We often mark the holiday with a well-sanitized telling of the story of “the First Thanksgiving” celebrated by the Pilgrims, our forebearers in faith. Let us humbly undertake to learn more about the real story of Thanksgiving, and open ourselves to learning from our indigenous neighbors.
From a National Museum of the American Indian resource:
“The English colonists could not have imagined how important their first encounter with Native people would be. The Wampanoags—with their intimate understanding of the environment and the high value they placed on social relationships—provided the colonists with the knowledge and skills they needed to survive, enabling them to produce the harvest that they celebrated with that first Thanksgiving feast. Certainly the Plymouth colonists were not the only Europeans or newcomers to rely on the guidance and knowledge of American Indian peoples, whose innovative approaches to coexisting with the land still contribute to the daily lives of all people. Native philosophies have long taken into account the effects of human activities on the natural environment and the dependence of sustainability on human effort. The entire environmental movement is based upon that same philosophy.”
Our forebearers would not have survived without the gracious aid of the people who already lived here, long before European colonists arrived. In this season of giving thanks, may we give great thanks for the wisdom, care, and example of the indigenous people of this country. May we give thanks for and to the Food Plants and animals that nourish us. May we confess the complicity of our forebearers and ourselves in taking advantage of our neighbors, both human and other creations. May we learn from our neighbors, especially those whose voices we have silenced or ignored for too many generations, to the detriment of humans and creation alike.
May we give thanks for a Creator who loves us so much that we are given opportunities to confess, to change our ways, and to work toward the interdependent Realm of God, in which all are respected.