by Lauren Bailey
National Field Organizer, Pax Christi USA
This week is a precious time — we’re preparing for the upcoming season of Advent, visiting with those we hold close, and giving thanks for the goodness that surrounds us.
Your own Thanksgiving traditions might be marked by gathering with family and friends, expressing gratitude for those around you, or sharing time with your loved ones. While all of these pleasantries are great — and should probably be exercised more frequently — they leave out the honest truth about the history of Thanksgiving.
Like many of us, the formal education I received about this holiday was plagued with a narrative of patriotism and camaraderie — carefully omitting any mention of genocide and colonization. When we tell the myth of Thanksgiving, we make invisible a whole population, we misrepresent the atrocities done by colonizers, and we dismiss the rich Indigenous cultures that were here long before Europeans arrived — and that remain here today.
Because of our tradition’s complicity in colonial violence, Catholics, in particular, have a responsibility to educate ourselves, claim accountability, and take action to begin repairing the ongoing harm of colonization.
Earlier this month, members of the Pax Christi USA staff attended the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice and presented on the need to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, established via papal teaching to provide spiritual, political, and legal justification for colonization and seizure of land not inhabited by Christians. The PSA below is both inspired by that presentation and encouraged by our Advent campaign, an invitation to commit to the process of learning and unlearning the ways that both our internal and external spaces have been colonized.
Throughout Advent, Pax Christi USA will be sharing ways to pray, study, and act around the theme of decolonization. This PSA for Thanksgiving through the first week of Advent (ending Saturday, Dec. 4), as well as other resources for throughout Advent & Christmas, can be found on our website at this page. We’ll continue to add resources throughout the season.
No matter your entry point into these conversations, I hope you are able to sit with the discomfort, commit to education, and work for justice.