Last week, I wrote about Native American Heritage Month.  This week, I want to follow up with some reflections on Thanksgiving.  In 2011, Dennis Zotigh of the National Museum of the American Indian wrote an essay entitled “Do American Indians Celebrate Thanksgiving?”  He succinctly explains the truth behind the stories of Squanto and the Pilgrims as well as the impact of culturally stereotyped celebrations of Thanksgiving.

All of which is not to say that American Indians do not embrace the concept of giving thanks.  As an example, here’s an English translation of the Mohawk version of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address.

I wrote last year about why the fourth Thursday of November is the date on which we currently celebrate Thanksgiving.  One other archival holding that makes me reflect on Thanksgiving is the Norman Rockwell print Freedom From Want.  Rockwell created this and three other prints for Saturday Evening Post to illustrate President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedom Speech.  These prints  that illustrated FDR’s speech about the necessity of fighting Axis aggressions during World War Two were then chosen by the Treasury Department to headline a campaign to encourage the purchase of war bonds.  As explained by the Norman Rockwell Museum, Rockwell used as inspiration “everyday, simple scenes.”  Freedom From Want has always appeared to me as the embodiment of a family Thanksgiving celebration, so its use to sell war bonds is an interesting one.  Or perhaps it just goes to show that commerce and Thanksgiving have a long history.

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