YWCA Southeast Wisconsin
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YWCA Blog

November 2017
By Paula Penebaker, President & CEO, YWCA Southeast Wisconsin


Thanksgiving: Does Everyone Love It?

Next Thursday, November 23 is Thanksgiving Day. It has always been one of my favorite holidays, primarily because of the combination of good food, family and friends. I don’t think I’m unique in that regard.

At the YWCA, we like to think about the historical significance of some of our most beloved and cherished celebrations. Often, this results in responses that include feelings ranging from disappointment to rage at the idea of upsetting long-held beliefs and traditions. That is not our intent. Rather, we seek to educate and spur thought.

I remember when, as a much younger adult, the thought occurred to me that Pilgrims were the worst house guests, ever. They arrived for dinner at the home of the Wampanoag people and didn’t leave! The Wampanoag joined their guests in the celebration of the first harvest in 1621 and by all accounts, had a grand old time. Unlike turkey, the centerpiece of many a US Thanksgiving dinner, the first meal probably included seafood and venison, maybe even whale. What wasn’t on the menu was cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes with giblet gravy or today’s wildly popular green-bean casserole.

The tribe, which is related to the Algonquin Nation of the New England area, was an unsuspecting group without a clue of what was to come in the years ahead. According to the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head website at http://www.wampanoagtribe.net/pages/wampanoag_webdocs/history_culture, the tribe inhabited the island now known today as Martha’s Vineyard. Gay Head, renamed “Acquinnah” in 1997 is the center of the federally-recognized tribe’s culture and heritage center.

So, what’s the significance of any of this?

We’d ask that when you stop to recognize all that you hold dear and are thankful for, remember that the land on which your home is built belonged to people who were on it long before your ancestors arrived. Think about what has happened to indigenous peoples over the centuries and pause for just a moment to reflect on how your good fortune came to be.

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