Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Not when I was young when the adults sat at a separate table and seemed to be having more fun, but now when I am one of the adults having fun. Heretofore there has been no downside to Thanksgiving, it is just a time to get together – with people you want to be with – and give thanks. But now there are cracks starting to appear in this idealized facade. The first Thanksgiving was a nice dinner with some Indians who – in the long run – had most of their land taken away – not to mention that the majority of them died (although murdered may be more accurate). A couple of times this year, I ran into references connecting the European immigration to the destruction of the native culture and peoples and I think that the pace is picking up.
As an aside, several times over this Thanksgiving, I ran into references to the Indians – in some cases now being referred to as First Nations – being better stewards of the land than their white conquerers. I don’t buy this. I think that the difference between what the First Nations did to the environment compared to what we are doing is, essentially, a difference in capacity. The Miwoks, after all, burned out Yosemite Valley to make hunting easier. End aside.
I have mixed emotions about this and am reminded of my grandmother Bambow. After my grandfather died, my grandmother lived alone and, every couple of weeks, one or more of her descendants – usually my mother – would go up to Santa Rosa and take her shopping. She – we – would fill her shopping cart to overflowing and then she would waddle to the checkout counter pushing the cart while one of us would follow, picking up the boxes that slid off of the pile. Once, as my grandmother got close to the checkout, a woman with a bottle of milk tried to scurry ahead of her. (This was way before the time of 15 items or less checkout lines.) With a mighty shove, my grandmother pushed her cart infront of this poor soul, cutting her off.
The woman couldn’t believe it, and I couldn’t either. It was just a nasty move. The woman looked at my grandmother and said Well, I hope you are happy! My grandmother looked back at her and said, Of course I am, I won, didn’t I. I probably took the opportunity to admire the floor tiles.
But, now I feel a little like that about the Indians or First Nations if you prefer. What we did was nasty, probably even to the point of being genocide, but we won and I am happy we are on this wonder-filled continent. Celebrating Thanksgiving.