This week, many Americans will criss-cross the United States to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. What would eventually be called the “First Thanksgiving” took place in 1621, as English colonists that had arrived on Wampanoag Land around present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts celebrated a fall harvest. The well-spun tale of Thanksgiving is that it brought together pilgrims and the Indigenous peoples in celebration, but in reality, their relationship was already fraught. King Massasoit of the Wampanoag Tribe was generous with the colonists, but they did not know how to survive in this new land and would soon resort to stealing corn from Tribal stores (and even graves) to feed themselves. The First Thanksgiving was not just a sharing of food, but a strategic and political alliance based on trade. The alliance was relatively short-lived, and broken when the colonists started a decades-long long war with their neighbors in 1637, ultimately wiping out much of the tribe.
For the next two centuries, Thanksgivings were celebrated locally as fall feast days until President Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday during the Civil War. It was during the postbellum period, when few were aware of the real history of the holiday, that the mythology around Thanksgiving was created. As the true story of Thanksgiving has come to light again, it has spurred a wrestling with our past and the creation of new gatherings to honor Indigenous history. Since the 1970s, Indigenous peoples across the US have gathered on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay during the holiday for Unthanksgiving, to mark a day of remembrance and resistance.
We each have a responsibility to remember the true history of Thanksgiving, and resist the ways in which the dominant, sanitized narrative of the holiday has traditionally been told. This remembrance and resistance takes many forms. This week we launch our newest report: A Green New Meal: How Factory Farming Fuels Climate Injustice and What We Can Do About It. Authored by Noa Dalzell, this comprehensive report describes how factory farming in the US is indeed a major driver of climate change and environmental injustice. Industrial animal agriculture is now one of the leading contributors to climate change, responsible for about 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The entire factory farming system is propped up by government subsidies and bailouts at taxpayer expense, and thrives economically as a result of weak environmental regulations and a capitalist economic system that prioritizes short-term profits over the well-being of people, animals, and nature itself. In the report, Noa proposes a series of climate-just agricultural policies that are required to dismantle factory farming, including banning the construction of new CAFOs; improving environmental, labor, and animal welfare regulations; and eliminating label censorship, ag-gag, and right to farm laws which favor large corporate interests over small family farmers. These policy approaches have the potential to become part of a Green New Deal (GND) for America. It is guaranteed to be an eye-opening Thanksgiving read!
What the Thanksgiving holiday represents for us in 2021 is an opportunity to reflect on this complex history and reorient what we give thanks for and hold in remembrance today. We support the farmworkers and suppliers who are working through an active pandemic to grow and deliver our food. We give thanks for the transit workers who will safely ferry us home. We stand in solidarity with the striking workers at Kelloggs and hundreds of other strike locations across the country as they demand less extractive working conditions. We seek to honor the real history of Thanksgiving, and give thanks to the community organizations and Indigenous nations who have raised our awareness. And we give thanks to our readers for your enduring support since our launch earlier this year.
The Editorial Team