Giving Thanks, Indian-style


It’s all about me

Sometimes the secret to dissecting an issue is to carve through the sinew.

A word like “Thanksgiving” creates its own semiotic map.

At its most basic, the word means, “Giving thanks.”

When my children were little, we went around the table sharing words about why we were thankful.

The kids were good sports: after some eye-rolling, they obliged their elders with words of gratitude.

At many American Indian gatherings, offering thanks book-ends the events: an elder will open a meeting by acknowledging that we are not alone.

And a respected person will close the meeting, offering thanks.

This year I mused about what Thanksgiving means to me, and I landed on a point that often goes unnoticed.

Thanksgiving forces us out of our cocoons, and we realize—for a moment—that we are all woven within the threads that comprise the tapestry.

All my Thanksgivings were and are rich with relatives and friends and neighbors.

What makes the holiday unique is the acknowledgement that we are not alone.

Many Native American peoples celebrate the autumnal harvest with a bountiful feast, shared with others, with the understanding that we are connected to each other, and to our surroundings that support us.

Giving thanks, therefore, means we acknowledge, recognize and honor all the beings, critters and life-forms that support us, and that make for a community of souls.


Day 22: Native American Heritage Month

22 November 2018



















About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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