Truth and Thanksgiving in 2021 – BC Catholic
This year, I’m writing my Thanksgiving reflection wearing an orange shirt – not to match the fall decor I’ve added to my home, but in an effort to mark the first official National Day for Truth and the reconciliation of our country.
My Thanksgiving decorations, hot fall meals, and the warm ambiance of our home bring back wonderful memories of my childhood. I remember many Thanksgiving dinners where I was surrounded by loved ones from three generations sitting around my grandparents’ dining room table. The aromas and tastes of our traditional Thanksgiving meals, the visions of a table decorated just so, the laughter, the stories and the tinkling of silverware on porcelain plates continue to fill my mind and heart. The collective memories of years of Thanksgiving melted into the unique image that has become my personal definition of this holiday. I continue to recreate what I can and add to our own traditions each year by helping to bond my children’s memories.
I shudder to think about it, but what kinds of memories would I have if I had been taken from my family? What if the smells, tastes, comforts, and history of the events I remember had been replaced by living in an institution filled with strangers who spoke a language I didn’t understand? My story would have been fragmented and filled with doubt, fear and insecurity. My current image from my childhood just wouldn’t exist, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be grateful – at least not in the same idealistic way – on Thanksgiving, at all.
It is an extremely sobering thought that must be faced. When I was in school, history lessons on Thanksgiving included stories of the harmonious relationship between native people and settlers. Indigenous peoples were often described as welcoming and teaching settlers how to hunt, fish and farm. In stories of shared harvest meals, Europeans were described as grateful to their new neighbors. There may have been some truth to some aspects of these stories, at least for some people; however, we are learning more and more that many pages of our history books have been practically sterilized – or contaminated – by omission.
Why, when we learned of tragedies in other countries, did our studies of Canadian history avoid our own honest and painful truths? Why have we never heard of children taken from their families and herded in trucks like cattle to residential schools, right here in our own country? Why haven’t I heard of kids like Phyllis Jack Webstab? She started school the same year that I started school myself, and while I was filling my memory bank with the images described above, she had the clothes that her grandfather had taken off. mother had purchased for her (including her precious orange shirt) by school staff. Why haven’t I learned that, like Phyllis, many more children have been deprived of their homes, their clothes, their language and their culture?
Why, in the resources and textbooks I used to teach my students, was I never encouraged to delve into the realities that unfolded behind closed doors in these institutions? Why have people in my own church been implicated in the abuse? Why did I accept this “story” as it was written on paper, when the truth was written on the faces and the lives of so many living in our communities?
The answers to these questions will probably never come; however, that we as a country are asking them now is a step in the right direction. We need to listen, find out the truth, apologize, and build relationships with those who have been hurt by our government, our Church, and our own ignorance of it all, because only when relationships exist can reconciliation happen. .
This Thanksgiving, My Comfort also causes discomfort, and this is necessary. As I will continue to appreciate my blessings and add to my children’s memory, I am also grateful for the chance to seek a knowledge of others and their respective truths.
Wearing an orange shirt doesn’t change the past, but it reminds me to look for a better future, to read between the lines, and to encourage my children and students to do the same. For this opportunity and for those who shared their stories, thank you.