As you gather with the ones you love in person or remotely or not, it is worth reflecting on the words of Edgar Villanueva—author, activist, founder of the Decolonizing Wealth Project, an Atlantic Fellow for Racial Equity, and, in full disclosure and celebration, a new member of Mother Jones’ board—from a conversation in Yes! magazine headlined “Healing From Colonization on Thanksgiving and Beyond”:
As a Native American, I’m often troubled by the way that Americans approach Thanksgiving. By holding onto an idealized image of a harmonious feast between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag, we’ve overlooked the brutality that Native people have faced since the arrival of Europeans. For many Native Americans, Thanksgiving is a day of mourning and remembrance—a reminder of the genocide of our people, the loss of our way of life, and the theft of our ancestral lands.
I propose seven steps to healing: grieve, apologize, listen, relate, represent, invest, and repair. I initially developed these steps in relation to my professional field of philanthropy, but they are also applicable to a personal process of decolonization.
The steps Edgar proposes are not easy, but I imagine they have the cumulative effect of bringing forth the actual goal of Thanksgiving—gratitude.
Gratitude for the opportunity to cross a bridge that you may not have known was there, or one you thought you couldn’t cross. Gratitude for the Navajo communities that organized get-out-the-vote efforts during a devastating pandemic that has imperiled the Navajo Nation at a disproportionate rate. Gratitude for the Gwich’in Native community in the Arctic for protecting the planet, risking life and livelihood. Gratitude for the Federated Indians of Graton Ranchería for supporting ways all of us can keep learning about wisdom that existed before so many of us arrived.
Happy healing and giving of thanks in the many ways we can and have yet to pursue.
—Venu Gupta is Mother Jones’ Midwest regional development director. Share your stories of gratitude and Thanksgiving with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.