*Please enjoy this desperately-needed, raw piece from our guest blogger, Serena Young*
My Thanksgiving education started in Kindergarten. Mrs. Sadie's class, my feet and hands getting tickled with paintbrushes to stamp into turkey imprints on art paper. Everyone scrambles for the largest googly eyes and glues multicolored feathers as a proud turkey’s tail.
Our school library bookshelves are decorated with stories of the First Thanksgiving and Native Americans and Pocahontas and John Smith. Brown, red, yellow and orange color my vision as I read about the lives of cartoon turkeys and happy Native American children frolicking with the Pilgrims.
We sit criss-cross applesauce while Mrs. Sadie reads to us and I admire the Native Americans who were so kind to share their knowledge and food with strangers. We learned Thanksgiving is about being kind to strangers just like these Native Americans and Pilgrims were kind to each other.
That perfect image was shattered in US History this year. The blindfold tore off, revealing the horrible treatment of Native Americans by the Spanish, English, Americans and an endless list of others through centuries of oppression. The Pilgrims arriving at Plymouth Rock in 1620 signified a long history of violence, genocide and silence of Native Americans.
There are always two sides to every story. Everyone knows about the Wampanoag tribe throwing a feast for the Pilgrims, but no one knows about the Pilgrims robbing Wampanoag graves and stealing their food for survival. In the years to come, more explorers — but let’s call them what they really are: invaders — would surge to claim inhabited territory, destroy soil with foreign plants and kill off animals and Native Americans with their disease and cruelty.
Many Native Americans would call Thanksgiving a day of mourning.
Carved turkey, pumpkin pie
Glistening ruby cranberry sauce
Sharing memories, stories, thanks
Smiles spread like virus
Wiping out entire tribes
Natives forced into labor
Gazing into creamy mashed potatoes
Will we remember smashed skulls
Genocide of children
Candied pecans, scent of cinnamon
Heavy, thick, smooth gravy
Heavy hearts, heavy shoulders
Will forgiveness be found
History turns to warnings, lessons
We do not forget
The pain, the past, the pressure
Double the love
Beautiful families enjoying
Laughing, loving, living
May we remember
And may we be better for it
~ Serena Young
Follow her on Instagram: @loveserenayoung