“Thanksgiving”: Learning Native Indigenous History
The History of Thanksgiving
Yesterday was Thanksgiving. We’ve ALL heard the story about why we celebrate Thanksgiving. We heard that it marked the day where the colonizers and Native people shared their first harvest feast in 1621. And I’m here to tell you that this wasn’t the first thanksgiving nor it happened the fairytale way. In fact, there were hundreds to thousands of thanksgivings and many of them (in Turtle Island; now the U.S.A) were related to the massacres, genocides, and murders of Native Indigenous people.
Read about the partial timeline/records of thanksgiving.
Read the Wampanoag side of the ‘first’ Thanksgiving story.
Read the true story behind the continuation of celebrating Thanksgiving.
Read where Thanksgiving came from and the dark history behind it.
The Irony of it All
Here’s the irony, the colonizers fled their country for freedom. Freedom of what? To free themselves from control of religion, law, government, debt, etc.
Here’s a little history recap: The pilgrims of the 1621 Thanksgiving didn’t arrive until December 1620. These colonizers were helped by Native people (per usual), with open arms, despite what happened prior to their arrival. Prior to their arrival, the Europeans made their way over in 1616. The European diseases and cruel activities killed up to 90% of the Wampanoag population. On the European’s way out, they ripped Natives from their tribes and families to become slaves. Although Natives were welcoming, the pilgrims still had to take.
Quick Summary: The colonizers came here for freedom to take freedom; which is what the government was build off of.
Putting it All Together: What is Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is a day of grief of what happened and what continues to happen to Natives. I continually ask myself, why celebrate a holiday that celebrates the downfall of my own people? In a simple answer, we weren’t given the truth in history class. We only read about the colonizer’s perspective to cover up what actually happened to Native people. This narrative paints colonizers to be the good and Native people as bad. There were many other demeaning words that described my people; my family.
Many uneducated/ignorant people ask that for any fact that exposes the true colors of America.
Answer: The colonizers/government tried their best to burn and erase every single piece of Native history and culture in more than hundreds of ways. Watch how the government did it and are still doing it today!
Things to Try
Learn the history behind holidays. Dig deeper. Ask yourself if you are hearing the truth. Be open to listening/learning from/about people who are systemically being oppressed. Be the change, not the problem. If you don’t see the problem, ask yourself how you would feel if the same happened to your race/culture. Treat people with kindness and dignity!
Those who are being oppressed, erased, targeted, etc. are at greater risk of suicide. We are humans! We exist and have feelings! Native Indigenous Lives Matter!
If you are struggling with mental health and would like to seek help, click here for our resources page.
TurningPointCT Team Shares What They’re Thankful For This Thanksgiving
When I was a kid, I used to enjoy Christmas more than Thanksgiving because all that seemed to matter as a kid was getting presents. As the years went on, though, that began to change. I no longer enjoy Christmas at all, but I enjoy Thanksgiving a lot. Both holidays have an underlying theme of family, but I’ve never really had that sense of family because my family has usually always been separated; it’s really only been my mother and I.
While it may not make sense to most because of what I mentioned above, I just can’t enjoy Christmas because of the stress of having to think about what gifts to get to people and because I don’t even see my family anyway. Thanksgiving is nice though, because while there may be some stress about getting food, for us it’s nice and quiet and we enjoy spending that time together eating delicious food and not having to worry about gifts. We are also vegan, so instead of eating turkey, we have other things.
I also enjoy the process of saying what we are thankful for before we eat. It’s just a nice way to reflect back on the previous year and take note of all the good things that may have happened even if I’m feeling down. For example, one thing I am thankful for this year is my new job as TurningPointCT’s Social Media Assistant! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Hey guys! We’re back with another podcast… this time we talk about gratitude. We will be talking about what we are grateful for, and what we are thankful for overcoming. Also, we discuss what we are appreciative to have on our horizons and how gratitude affects our mental health. Here you can read studies on how giving thanks can actually help your mental health. It can create an optimistic outlook and positive change.
Also, during our holiday party we ran off to the side to record a quick podcast together and reflect on the things we are grateful for. Joining us today are Cindy, our other Cindy, Dri, Nahjeera, Jonathan, and me- Eliza! Check it out and let us know what you’re grateful for!
Click here to check out an older discussion on gratitude I started two years ago!
Want to practice appreciation yourself? Gratitude has real benefits towards your mental health- but sometimes its hard to practice when the world seems dark or overwhelming. Looking for something in life to feel grateful for having (or for not having) can help change your world, and self view for the better. Check out this article on gratitude journals and tips for starting one here.
Lost at the Moment…
The days continue to pass, my mind remains in a daze, Other times I’m in such a fast-paced rush that I forget my surroundings I want to do more, I know I can do more Yet I feel so lost, so empty, so ungrounded Who am I, why am I here, do I even belong? WHAT IS MY PURPOSE? I thought it had it all figured out Things come and go, People, places, occasions I want to change the cycle I know others understand this feeling There will be a better tomorrow Just as the sun sets it also rises Yet as quickly as the positive thought enters, the despair storms in and the silhouette of the unknown takes over WHY AM I SO ANXIOUS? What is the next step? I can hear those around me, Sometimes in whispers, sometimes in yells Feelings surrounded by many Sometimes feeling completely alone I don’t even recognize myself anymore Is this who I have become This is not who I wanted to be
How to Play a Positive Role in Sexual Assault Awareness Month
I grew up believing that my entire life would be dedicated to the performing arts. Now, I’m also a survivor and “thriver” of sexual abuse, 27 surgeries, coma, organ failure, and the PTSD that comes from ten years of trauma — or what I now call my “beautiful detour.”
At 17, I was sexually abused by a voice coach who had become a mentor, a friend, my family. At 18, years old, a blood clot caused my body to go into septic shock. I was in a coma for six months, and after a total gastrectomy, I was unable to eat or drink a drop of water for six of the past ten years. After 27 surgeries, I was miraculously reconnected with the intestines I had left. To persevere through those tumultuous years took great inner and outer strength — strength I didn’t know I was capable of until I was tested.
I learned that the human spirit feeds off of hope, and hope is fuel we can cultivate ourselves. Ultimately, I learned that with resourcefulness, creativity, and unwavering curiosity, we can transform any adversity into personal growth and a resilience that is uniquely ours.
Everything became possible once I was willing to intentionally wander from the life I planned and embrace this “detour” as an opportunity for discovery. This is not the life that I planned for myself — but does anyone’s life ever work out exactly how they plan it?
The Stifling Problem
Sexual assault is a serious problem in our society, and one of the most important things we can do is know how to best support a survivor.
You can be an active part of lowering this statistic by knowing what to say to someone who has been assaulted.
Why is it hard for survivors to report an assault?
First, it’s best to understand why sexual assault is so infrequently reported. As asurvivor myself, I experienced each of these barriers:
· We don’t know how to speak it.
Survivors of sexual assault might not have the words or vocabulary to report that they’ve been violated. It took me years before I could even begin to articulate the turmoil that was rattling inside of me. It was terrifying for me to actually verbalize the fact that had been betrayed by someone I really trusted.
We don’t know who to tell.
It can be very difficult to find someone we feel comfortable enough sharing this with, especially if we haven’t fully processed it for ourselves.
We’re scared we won’t be believed.
We fear that when we finally do work up the courage to tell someone, we wont be taken seriously.
The Dangers of Not Speaking
Holding this secret in can slowly shift to victim blaming. We think, “If I hadn’t been there, or worn this outfit, or been with this person had done [insert here], I wouldn’t have been assaulted.”
Yet, in reality, the only person that can actually prevent the rape is the rapist themselves. But for most of us, it’s easier or us to got through that mental checklist of things we “could have” prevented, because we can rationalize, “If I hadn’t been here, I wouldn’t have spoken to this person.” It’s how we try to come to terms with what happened. What results is a damaging self-blame that we don’t deserve.
If a survivor of sexual assault is already saying these things to themselves, imagine how hard it is for them to actually speak out. When we keep this in, it turns to shame.
The shame survivors feel is a tremendous barrier to reporting.
How can you help someone overcome their barriers to reporting?
Create a safe place for that reporting to happen, with an open heart. It took years for me to feel comfortable sharing my own story, but knowing how imperative this was for my own healing process inspires me to help others do the same.
Then they’ll start to wonder what they could have done to “make that happen.”
Even if you empathize, or are a survivor yourself, respect that you will never now what it is actually like for the survivor and their own individual experience.
It could have been worse. You’re lucky that something more awful didn’t happen.
If you hadn’t been ____, maybe this would not have happened.
It’s not your fault, but, maybe you shouldn’t have___.
You’re going to be fine.
It’s not fine right now. People need to feel the pain and difficulty of their experience. It will get better, but they need to find safe ways to be whatever they are feeling right now.
Try not to get so worked up.
A survivor has every right and reason to feel what they are feeling right now. Let them know that.
Helping Break the Silence
Most importantly, listen to the survivor. Let them say however little or much as they need to. Follow up with them if you can. And know that you have have made a tremendous impact on someone’s recovery.
So many gifts came out of this. I discovered painting in hospitals and flourished as a mixed media artist with solo art shows, merchandise and creativity workshops. I wrote a one-woman musical about my life, Gutless & Grateful, which I’ve performed in theatres across the country for three years and now take it to college campuses, conferences and support groups as a mental health awareness and sexual assault prevention program. After never having a boyfriend in my life, I tried online dating, got married, did a TEDx Talk about it, and then, when suddenly faced with divorce, I realized strength I never knew I had. And I finally started college…at 25 years old.
I was not able to fully appreciate the beauty of my detours until I was able to share them. As a performer, all I’ve wanted to do was give back to the world. But now I have an even greater gift to give: a story to tell.
But first…I had to learn how to speak it.
Everyone has a place in sexual assault prevention. According to RAINN, an average of 68% of assaults in the last five years were not reported. Together, we can help all survivors come forward to share their story and heal.
Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright, sharing the lessons learned from trauma through her writing, mixed media art, performance and inspirational speaking.
Her original, full-length drama, Imprints, premiered at the NYC Producer’s Club in May 2016, exploring how trauma affects the family as well as the individual. “Detourism” is the subject of her TEDx and upcoming book, “My Beautiful Detour,” available December 2017.
Teen Dating Violence Survivor
Hey guys! February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. So with that, I figured I’d open up about my experience as a survivor of a domestic violence relationship.
*Name changed to protect the privacy of the individual. Because I’ve gotten to a place in my life where exposing doesn’t result in healing, that comes from within for me.
His name was JC*. When I first met him, he was SO charming. He was kind, compassionate, funny, and overall a great guy. We started off being friends first and then we transitioned into a relationship. I was 16 when I first started officially dating him.
JC always complimented me and made me feel so special. However, slowly, he started to change.
JC started to become very jealous, possessive, and controlling. However, he would always make it seem innocent. For instance, he would tell me how I should dress and then make it seem as if he had good intentions behind it. He would say in a soft tone, “Hey babe listen, I think you shouldn’t wear a tank top so revealing because men stare at you and you deserve to be looked at for your insides, not the outsides.” It sounded nice, and although my tank top wasn’t very revealing at all since I dress very conservative, I would listen to him and believe his good intentions. Little did I know that it was a form of control that was going to take a turn for worse.
He would continue in his soft tones and good intentions, but he cranked his control up a notch. He started saying things like, “You should do your homework later so that we can have more time to spend with each other because I just miss you so much.” I believed and followed all of his wishes and suggestions. I think I did it because I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I also had self-esteem issues and a twisted view of love, so I slowly became his puppet.
Then, his tone changed after a few months. Once he started to gain some control, he would then make himself a victim and I was the one who was wrong. JC started to say cruel things to me and started to make me feel terrible about myself. One time he said, “Ally you can’t wear that because you make yourself look like a whore and you have a boyfriend.” He went from being nice, to being rude. Then he would start to tell me what I could and could not do. Slowly but surely he started taking everything away from me.
The progression of his abuse became worse as time went on and I became almost possessed by him. Looking back, it was a lot similar to how addiction took over me too. I remember when he started to become more verbally abusive by calling me names all the time. He literally called me “cunt” as if it was my first name. I was constantly being called stupid, worthless, ugly, fat, etc. The worst part of it was that I started to believe it myself.
Then he laid his hands on me. That was a progression in itself. He would first grab my wrist and squeeze it, and then it turned into slaps, punches, and literally beating me up. I remember the humiliation that he would cause me. I hid the abuse, just like I hid drug abuse when I went through that too. I didn’t want anyone to know what was going on behind closed doors and I was also very fearful of the threats he would make me if I told anyone what was happening.
I remember trying to escape the relationship so many times. I was in the relationship for about 2 years until I finally left. He was the one that introduced me to narcotic drugs and brought trauma to me that the drugs helped me cope with. A part of me blames him for my addiction, despite the free will that I had.
It took me months to stop flinching when someone would touch me and accept respect and love from men and just people in general. Sometimes I still find myself flinching at a certain touch, even when the person isn’t trying to hurt me. The damage that the physical and mental abuse that JC caused held onto me for years and was mostly submerged with drugs instead of healthy ways to get through it. It wasn’t until I got sober that I decided that it was a chapter in my life that I had to address and work through in order to get full recovery from that. It was a tough process, but I got through it. God helped me the most along with professional help.
The one major thing that helped me with this was forgiveness. I had to forgive JC. I was sick at the thought of having to forgive someone who caused me so much betrayal and pain. PLUS HE WASN’T EVEN SORRY!!! HOW WAS I TO FORGIVE SOMEONE WHO FELT NO REMORSE?! However, I knew that I had to forgive him in order to help myself. So I did. I allowed vengeance to be the Lords. I felt so much peace when I truly forgave him in my heart.
They say what goes around comes around. Well, let me tell you, he reaped what he sowed. I didn’t get revenge. I didn’t get payback. I let go of the desire for that. JC ended up having some serious struggles shortly after we had broken up. He had lost all of his belongings, had 0 friends, 0 relationships, and many other struggles. Although I don’t wish pain and struggle on people, a part of me couldn’t help but think, “He got what he gave”. Everything that he took from me was taken from him.
Although I can comfortably talk about the experience I had with DV, just writing this makes my anxiety in full throttle. My hands are shaking, my heart is racing, and I’m sweating. I don’t know why this topic makes me feel this way, but talking about the depths of addiction doesn’t bring this, which was actually worse for me. I think I’m subconsciously still very angry about all that he did. I can’t help but wonder if I would have never become addicted to drugs had it not been for his abuse. I also hate the fact that some of the trauma and damage still stays in my subconscious. I hate that I still fear anger and tempers to the extreme. I HATE that an innocent touch can trigger the trauma too. However, I face the same thing with drug addiction triggers too. Thank God I’ve developed good coping skills that I resort to when these triggers come.
In the end, I’m a survivor. I have to keep the promise to myself to recognize the red flags and warning signs that I ignored if they ever come up again. I have to advocate for myself and most importantly, allow myself to be truly respected, loved, and cared for.
TurningPointCT.org was developed by young people in Connecticut who are in recovery from mental health and substance use issues. We know what it’s like to feel alone, stressed, worried, sad, and angry. We’ve lived through the ups and downs of self-harm, drugs and alcohol, and the struggle to find help. Learn More »