What Canadians Can Be Thankful For: Pemmican and Beavers

Thanksgiving Through a New Lens

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians celebrating this weekend!

As I’m sure you’ve heard repeatedly in the media – “Thanksgiving this year looks a little different”. COVID has definitely changed what we’re able to do, and who we can gather with.

But that’s not the only way Thanksgiving looks different to me this year. Thanks to the Indigenous Canada online course taught by the University of Alberta on Coursera, my lens is changing to see what we truly have to be thankful for about the ways Indigenous people provided for the very people who colonized them.

I remember learning in school that we have Thanksgiving holiday because the original pilgrims (i.e. colonizers) landing at Plymouth Rock were starving, and the “Native Indians” who received them gave them food (a turkey), which the pilgrims were so thankful for. They feasted on the turkey together with the Natives, everybody were friends, and we all lived happily ever after.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m being quite sarcastic.

I also didn’t bother to fact check any of that because I’m writing what I remember learning (and believed up until adulthood), not what is necessarily true. The sad fact that this is what I remember off the top of my head, underscores how deeply ingrained this teaching is.

I won’t be debunking any of this story in this post – there are better articles talking about Canadian Thanksgiving (here’s an example).