Rethinking Thanksgiving

Nov 26, 2020

With honor, truth, and brotherhood for all,
Debra Schrishuhn for the PDA National Team

Reflections on the Holiday, Past and Future


Thanksgiving is a quintessential American holiday, and its mythology rooted in a symbolic feast celebrating Indigenous people welcoming the Pilgrims leaves out the terrible harm done to people of color throughout American history.

In 1970, Wampanoag elder Wamsutta Frank James was invited, and then barred, from giving a speech at a banquet commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Mayflower’s landing at Plymouth. James and a group of supporters met nearby to inaugurate the National Day of Mourning, commemorating the hardship, genocide, and systemic racism that Indigenous people have endured.

His visionary speech exploded the whitewashed mythology of the First Thanksgiving, and implored Americans to embrace a new framing of the holiday: “Today we must work towards a more humane America, a more Indian America, where men and nature once again are important, where the Indian values of honor, truth, and brotherhood prevail.”

PDA fully supports this reframing of Thanksgiving as a day for counting our blessings, yes, but also as a day to reflect on the harsh realities of our national history, and to rededicate ourselves in making America a just and equitable society for all.

As the pandemic rages unchecked on this Thanksgiving, more Americans are experiencing hunger than in a quarter century. In what is traditionally a season of celebration, less than half of US households with children feel “very confident” about having enough money to afford food needed over the next month. Twenty-two percent of Black U.S. households reported going hungry in the past week, nearly twice the rate faced by all American adults. Without additional relief aid from Congress, more than 12 million workers will lose unemployment benefits before year’s end.

So, we implore our fellow Americans to be safe this weekend, be kind to one another, and be ready to fight for justice, opportunity, and fairness—not only for those you know and love, but for those you do not know and those who are feeling the brunt of pandemic-related exposure and hardship.