Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Rewriting the Myth of #Thanksgiving

There are few things as patently American as Thanksgiving. With football, pie, and family, the holiday is a recipe of Americana traditions and unbridled nationalism. Yet, the holiday's origins are slightly more nefarious than its current iteration.

As writer and scholar Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz explains in "The Myth of Thanksgiving," the concept of Thanksgiving as a way to reflect on colonial settlers' relationships with Indigenous people and honor the founding of the U.S., does not derive from historical fact, but rather as a conditioned myth. While "Thanksgiving" became a national holiday by President Lincoln, the holiday begins to shape into its current form during the Great Depression, when economic and social chaos necessitated feelings of national unity.  

Of the holiday, Dunbar-Ortix writes "But this idea of the gift-giving Indian, helping to establish and enrich what would become the United States, is an insidious smoke screen meant to obscure the fact that the very existence of the country is a result of the looting of an entire continent and its resources."  She finishes her piece by challenging readers to a new tradition of Thanksgiving-one where the colonist practices of the U.S. are critiqued and the history of Indigenous people are celebrated. 

What are ways in which Thanksgiving can serve as a platform for honest and critical thinking about America's origins and history? Beyond the holiday, how can we work to draw more attention to the history and lives of Indigenous communities?    


bcofran said...

Really compelling reflection. These ideas also relate to the celebration of Columbus Day, honoring the destruction Columbus and his crew(s) brought upon the indigenous people of the Americas. We need to move away from an "American exceptionalism" view of history and towards an honest look at our true past, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Check out "Talking About Racism With White Kids" from The New York times, which brings up finding teachable moments about history, especially with kids: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/11/25/talking-about-racism-with-white-kids/?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&bicmp=AD&bicmlukp=WT.mc_id&bicmst=1409232722000&bicmet=141977352200&_r=1

Mhal said...

Thanks for sharing that article!
Another great resource is http://zinnproject.edu, the site of the Zinn Education Project.
Check out a recent article entitled "Teaching About Ferguson."
We do need to welcome more critical lessons on American history, yet when so much of our political identity is tied to ethos of "American exceptionalism" it makes it even more challenging that say, altering a history curriculum.

Kat Hal said...

THIS! It is so important to acknowledge the myths about Thanksgiving not only on thanksgiving, but throughout the year! Native American culture exists on 364 other days too. This article ( http://modernfarmer.com/2013/11/native-american-cuisine/ ) provides an interesting perspective. Here's a teaser "We want to believe that, for a brief moment, a delicious meal joined natives and pilgrims, a moment which plays into American nostalgia for a time when food could center our communities and bridge differences. But food has never been a silver bullet for American politics. Eating — and preserving culinary history — has long been a political act." With that said, ask yourself this: "what foods to I picture when someone is talking about Native American Cuisine" ---If the answer is a big 'ol Turkey with some stuffing, then maybe you need to learn a tad bit more about those who were here long before the colonists.