Being a Good Guest

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By: Joan Aandeg and the Committee for Indigenous Peoples Day Wellesley 

The Thanksgiving myth has taught generations of Americans that Native People are a relic of the heroic founding of our nation. According to this romanticized story, friendly and helpful Indians welcomed the Pilgrims and shared this land of plenty, then conveniently disappeared. 

My name is Joan Aandeg. I am an enrolled member of the Lac Courtes Oreilles band of Lake Superior Anishinaabeg. We are relatives of the Wampanoag. I would like to share a few facts.

Indigenous Peoples have been caretaking these lands since time immemorial, and we are still here.

We are the original free and independent people of these lands. For countless generations, we have been free and independent Nations, living in community, caretaking our lands and waterways. We live in respectful, reciprocal relationships with the beings and spirits of our world. We have deep ties with other nations going back thousands of years. We have our own languages and ways of speaking that encode and carry our way of life across the generations. We are resilient and strong. Our rituals and practices ensure the continuity of our People and our world–All Our Relations. 

We have never been the “primitive” Indians of the settler mythology.

The Thanksgiving myth is harmful because it erases the truth of what was done to the Wampanoag and every other tribe after them (1). There has never been friendly sharing of the land. The settlers did not know how to behave as guests in someone else’s home. The settlers have always taken what they want. They started by desecrating the graves of the Wampanoag, and they went on to desecrate an entire continent. 

When one travels, it is customary to honor the practices of the host country. We are the Indigenous Peoples of this Land. We can show you how to be good relatives. Maybe that’s what the Wampanoag people were trying to do so long ago when they helped the settlers survive.

What can we celebrate instead of Thanksgiving? We can celebrate Wampanoag resistance. Since 1970, Native people and allies have gathered in Plymouth on the fourth Thursday in November to commemorate a National Day of Mourning (2). We can honor our Wampanoag hosts by acknowledging the truth of our shared history, and by being good guests.

Gidinawendimin. We are all related.

 

References:

  1. Myth Busting Thanksgiving–webinar for educators, parents, and adults by Kisha James, Dr. Debbie Reese, and Joan Aandeg
  2. United American Indians of New England–information on the National Day of Mourning

Additional Resources:

  1. Mayflower 400: A deep dive into American Thanksgiving–an episode of the Unreserved podcast produced by CBC Radio; portion on Thanksgiving begins at 23:44 with Linda Coombs, Wampanoag (Trigger warning for 
  2. The Suppressed Speech of Wamsutta (Frank B.) James, Wampanoag–because of censorship by the 350th Mayflower Anniversary Committee, this speech was delivered instead to a group of supporters on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth on November 26, 1970, the first National Day of Mourning
  3. American Indians in Children’s Literature–“…critical analysis of Indigenous peoples in children’s and young adult books.”
  4. The Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project–“Bringing back our language one student at time”