I am an immigrant to the United States. Born and raised in Italy with a tradition of food as medicine and European folk herbalism, I was confused upon my arrival to the U.S. The grocery stores were huge and filled with packaged foods and plastic-wrapped vegetables. Nobody seemed to walk anywhere or have a garden.
Assimilation is a ruthless force. As distressed as I was by leaving an intact food system and entering a broken one, I had to survive. I needed to participate in this way of life or else I would be shut out, isolated, and judged by the kids around me. So I did. I ate many dishes for the first time: grilled cheese with ketchup, hamburgers, French fries, toaster waffles, and pancakes drenched in corn-syrup sweetened imitation maple syrup. Eating suddenly felt like a fast-paced, unpleasant act.
Today, I realize how much our understanding of culturally appropriate food affects mutual respect and tolerance, or lack thereof, in this country. I now live in the Northeast of the United States in colonized Abenaki and Koasek territory. I actively work with local tribes to support their efforts of finding and growing the seeds of their heritage.
As a white European person, I know that it is essential to recognize and support native people’s struggle for recognition and reparation in order to move towards collective liberation. I am raising my children with the understanding that we occupy colonized Abenaki land and need to center reparations in our daily choices. I encourage you to educate those you know about the myth of Thanksgiving.
I cannot speak for indigenous people. However, I would like to share some incredible resources that allow you to hear from local tribes about their Thanksgiving traditions and why this coming Thursday is considered a Day of Mourning.
Wampanoag, Mohegan and Columbian indigeous educators talk about the true foods and history of Thanksgiving
Smithsonian Magazine article about Native American view of Thanksgiving
Article by Abenaki elder about deconstructing the myths of the first Thanksgiving
Time Magazine article about a better way to celebrate Thanksgiving from the perspective of the Sioux Chef
CNN article about Day of Mourning