Thanksgiving Meditation

 This year, in a time of distance and isolation, perhaps 
  our sorrow and regret at the limitations on our feasting
  might be tempered with an acknowledgement of the 
 Sorrow of this land’s original people.
  
 For descendants of the Europeans, Thanksgiving celebrates 
 abundance and generosity, remembering when the 
 Wampanoag people welcomed the Pilgrims, 
 who were strangers, weary and hungry and far from home.  
  
 Let us remember Squanto, of the Pawtuxet tribe, 
who taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, 
how to hunt deer and beaver, and where to fish.  
Remember Massasoit, chief of the Pokanoket, whose tribe 
celebrated with the Pilgrims their first successful harvest.
  
  How has this generosity been repaid?  This act of
   welcoming the stranger, the commandment in Torah 
   repeated 36 times, and in its repetition given  
   priority over almost every other commandment.
  
 These are some of the tribes who lived in this region, whose 
 descendants mourn the exile of their ancestors, 
 the loss of their lives and their land, 
the destruction of their heritage. 
 Abenaki, Mohican, Nipmuc, Pennacook, Pocumtuc, Wampanoag.
  
 Rabbi Heschel said  
    “…in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”

 It is good to celebrate in joy, to eat together.  
 None of us are guilty for the deeds of our ancestors.
 But we are responsible for healing the wounds they left behind.
  
 May our prayers of thanksgiving also remember 
those who paid a terrible price for our presence 
in this land.  May we rise from our feasting with 
greater clarity of vision and renewed
  commitment to justice and repair of the world. 
I started writing this piece to clarify some of my own conflicting feelings about this holiday.  It might be something useful for beginning a Thanksgiving meal.  It’s written not with the intent of instilling guilt, but as an honest acknowledgement of our painful history vis a vis the people that had lived here for thousands of years before Europeans “discovered” America.
The first four paragraphs are true to the entire colonization story, but the fifth paragraph names tribes that lived in Massachusetts or surrounding areas, and many of their descendants live here still.  If used in other areas of the US, the names could be changed to reflect local history.  
There are numerous resources online for good information and two of them I used are:  https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Indigenous_Tribes_of_the_United_Statesby_State  and https://americanindian.si.edu/.

Martha Hurwitz, 11/23/20
Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s