This weekend students flooded their hometowns, cozying up to missed loved ones and indulging in the typical Thanksgiving rituals of overeating and sleeping in. However, not all students planned to obliterate multiple servings of mashed potatoes.
For second-year student Veronica Kerrigan, the holiday evokes a mixture of feelings.
“I am excited [to go home] for a few reasons: a comfortable bed, seeing friends and family…I made preserves over the summer and I can eat those.” Kerrigan also expressed concern about the celebratory, religious aspect of Thanksgiving. At her Catholic school in Saint John, Thanksgiving always related to an appreciation of God. “Being thankful for something was being thankful because God gave it you. It was never discussing, ‘Hey, [we] stole things from the people who used to have this land!’” Kerrigan said.
Ellice Evans, a British-born American student, does not celebrate the holiday. “It’s not a thing in England…[My family] doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. It has no significance to me.”
Evans resided in Montana for much of her life and was confused by the holiday’s customs. “People from Montana assumed we already knew what Thanksgiving was. My brother and I just sat at our friends’ house pretending – we knew nothing about Thanksgiving.”
Emma Hassencahl, a fourth-year Maliseet student, explained that she experiences Thanksgiving in a traditional way: celebrating by social gathering. When she returns home to Tobique First Nation, her family uses the time to connect and eat dinner together. However, Hassencahl is still “conscious that Thanksgiving falls on Columbus Day. Seventeen major cities have already made Columbus day obsolete, as it should be.”
Third-year First Nations student Christopher Grant and their family celebrate a revised version of traditional Thanksgiving. “We treat it as an annual feast rather than Thanksgiving,” they said. The Grant family eats typical Thanksgiving sides, but instead of turkey, moose meat pies are the special dish.
Grant is infuriated that people overlook the devastation faced by Indigenous peoples and the issues that still exist today. “I fucking hate Thanksgiving because of what really happened…I dislike that people ignore the slaughtering of my ancestors because, ‘Yum, turkey.’”
“The practice in general is awful,” said second-year student Julia Campbell, highlighting that issues surrounding a lack of understanding reside within the education system, even at the elementary level. “We never learned about Thanksgiving from an Indigenous perspective at all.” She recalled colouring cornucopias, making turkeys from construction paper and having teachers ask her what she was thankful for. “It is all bullshit,” Campbell said.
Third-year student Saskia van Walsum planned a hike over the long weekend. “I have been planning for months to hike the Bay of Fundy because I find [that] during the school year I don’t get to be outside in nature enough.”
van Walsum could have gone home to her step-family in Ottawa, but didn’t to avoid awkwardness. “It’s not so much a vacation, more so a ‘look at me, I am a good daughter’ [act].” Add to that the horror of her mother’s marshmallow sweet potato dish and van Waksum was eager to be Fundy-bound.
Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, students are recovering from a weekend of indulgence. As second-year student Braden Chetwynd commented, “It’s a gluttonous holiday. But I do love it.”