Contextualizing Midland's Thanksgiving | Midland School

Contextualizing Midland's Thanksgiving in the History of the Day

Fall 2020

In various classes across campus, students are delving into the complex and challenging history behind the holiday we will be celebrating this week: Thanksgiving. Though the “Hallmark” version of this holiday has become a favorite here at Midland — we love spending a day full of gratitude for abundance and community — we also feel a responsibility to pause and acknowledge the history of indigenous oppression that lies at the root of this day. 

Our Honors U.S. Studies class takes the deepest dive into this history and is currently culminating their first unit on “Native Nations in a Land Now Called America,” which combs through U.S. History centering the Indigenous perspective from pre-Columbus to present day issues. In one assignment, students wrote letters responding to President Andrew Jackson’s factually inaccurate speech to Congress about the Indian Removal Act of 1830, from the perspective of a Cherokee person. In her response, Mallory ’22 wrote, “Dear Mr. President Jackson, I am left wondering what exactly constitutes these savage habits that you speak of. The Cherokee Nation has ‘invented an alphabet, started a newspaper, wrote a constitution, started farms, and even wore white peoples’ clothes’ (SHEG). Why is our displacement necessary if we are already cooperating with your terms of conversion?”  Nuala ’22 concluded, “You have attempted to deceive your Congress about your own intentions, our way of life, and the law which they are sworn to uphold. Your lies will not continue to go without notice or confrontation. This land belongs to the Cherokee Nation by law, and it is not available for purchase because you feel entitled to it.”

Students will continue to dive into the ways that our nation’s history has impacted Indigenous peoples of this country — and the measures many Native Nations continue to take to fight for decolonization. If you have any favorite resources on Thanksgiving, Indigenous Sovereignty, land rights, and other related topics, please feel free to send them our way! We’d love to know how you at home are thinking about the holiday differently this year.  And, if you want to learn more, join our U.S. Studies class in watching Dawnland, a 2018 documentary about the first government-sanctioned truth and reconciliation commission in the United States (the Maine-Wabanaki TRC) which investigates the destructive legacy of Indian Boarding Schools on the Foster Care System, and illuminates a path to healing for Indigenous children affected.

By Ellie Moore
Dean of Academics

Read more about Ellie.

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