Thoughts on Turkey Day

Jessy Neal

By Jessy Neal 

October 8, 2020

Thanksgiving and Colonization 

As a self-identifying Indigenous woman, with experience growing up in the foster care system, I have a few thoughts around the Thanksgiving holiday. The origin of the event actually comes from Indigenous ceremonies of feasting and giving thanks. The intent of the international holiday in North America is supposed to be thanking the Indigenous nations for helping the colonizers who “discovered” North America in 1492. Indigenous people fed the people in the colonies food that came from the land, like squash, corn, wild turkey, and cranberries, because the people in the colonies were not having any luck growing their own food and livestock that was brought from their original nation.  

What most Thanksgiving celebrations leave out, is that the colonizers brought a host of new diseases which killed an estimated 80-90% of the Indigenous peoples living in North America in the 100-150 years after 1492. While I appreciate the thought behind thanking the Indigenous peoples who helped save the colonizers from starving to death, I do not formally celebrate “Thanksgiving.” As an educated Indigenous person, I now choose to participate in the “Turkey Day” dinners that often accompany the stat holiday.  

 

Tips for the Holidays 

Now going back to the growing up in care part, hmm where do I start? I have memories of both attending family dinners as a child, then being an addition to someone else’s family during the holiday, and finally, being alone as a youth living independently and having nowhere to go on the actual day for dinner. All experiences aside, any type of holiday event can be stressful and full of lots of different types of emotion. To combat this here are a list of suggestions to help with stressful situations or overwhelming emotions. 

Just remember to keep COVID-19 guidelines in mind. You can find some tips on the BC CDC website. http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/social-interactions/safer-celebrations 

  1. Plan your own dinner and invite people that you would like to spend time around, also don’t feel like you have to follow the “traditional” menu. You can spice things up by having a different main meal. 
  2. Don’t feel like you have to attend a bio-family event if you are not comfortable. Your happiness and well-being are important! 
  3. If you want to be alone on that day, that is completely fine! Make a plan for your own day at home, save some $$ and order a pizza or anything from a food delivery service or make something you always wanted to make but were scared to try. 
  4. Have plenty of movies that make you happy queued up and ready to play or have a movie marathon day with popcorn and pajamas. 
  5. Play music and dance around – it’s all good, no one is watching! 
  6. Drag out some colouring materials or crafting items that you haven’t had time for. 
  7. Make a list of people you would like to call and video chat and call them! 
  8. Read that book you’ve been staring at on the shelf/night table/counter that you haven’t had time for. 
  9. Curl up in bed with some warm blankets and a cup of tea/hot chocolate/coffee, whatever floats your boat, and watch some Netflix or read that book. 
  10. Take a bath with bubbles or a bath bomb. 
  11. Volunteer – lots of organizations host dinners for families and people in need. 
  12. Write what you are feeling down in journal, it can help to visually see the things going on in your head. 
  13. Make plans to spend time with other people you know who might have nowhere to go to have a holiday dinner. 
  14. Plan to go over to a friend or family member’s for the night. 
  15. If you feel like you want to cry, then cry. 
  16. Try laugh yoga. 
  17. Last but not least, my favorite, make up a bunch of snacks, healthy or not healthy, up to you, and play video games, either by yourself or with some friends.  

 

Sources and articles if you’d like to learn more: 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/indigenous-thanksgiving-history-1.4345348 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/indigenous-people-in-ottawa-want-to-reclaim-thanksgiving-day-columbus-day-1.3264648  

http://www.centerforchildwelfare.org/kb/fosterparents/HelpYouthInFC-Holidays.pdf  

https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/nunn/files/nunn_qian_jep_2010.pdf