Meet Jacqueline Keeler, author and educator. Jacqueline has worked with Native American youth for many years. She is a member of the Dineh Nation and the Yankton Dakota Sioux. Today, she writes curriculum for organizations and schools on teaching tolerance. And, she writes extensively about Thanksgiving and indigenous cultures.
“It may surprise those who wonder what a Native American thinks of the official celebration of the European invasion that culminated in the death of 10-30 million of their ancestors," she says, "But, I do observe Thanksgiving!" Jacqueline is quick to point out, however, that there is another whole side to the Pilgrim story and that we need to be certain that we get our holiday facts straight.
She reminds us that when the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, they weren’t dressed in those crisp, clean costumes with polished buckles. They were poor, tired and starving to death. Half of them died within a few months from disease and hunger. Within the first year, all of their European crops had failed. It was the local Wampanoag tribe who fed them and taught them how to grow food. In fact, their training in native horticulture produced crops that were shared around the world.
“I sometimes wonder what they ate in Europe before they met us,” Jacqueline laughs, “Spaghetti, without tomatoes? Meat and potatoes, without potatoes? We must never forget that at the first Thanksgiving, it was the Wampanoags who provided the bulk of the food. And what did the Europeans give in return? Within 20 years, disease and treachery decimated the tribe.”
Yes, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks and sharing nature’s bounty. But we must never forget who shared what with whom! And who taught whom that it’s only in giving that we discover there is more than enough for all.