The Cultural Landscape of Thanksgiving

This is a repost. The blog was first posted 11/19/18. Thanksgiving is upon us. As we ready to join our families this holiday, it is worth taking a moment to reflect upon the meaning of the holiday. As a cultural geographer, I study how systems of cultural meaning and power structure our understanding of the…

The Cultural Landscape of Thanksgiving

In the years to follow the first Thanksgiving, the holiday was only sporadically recognized. The early presidents proclaimed days of Thanksgiving, but the federal government stopped recognizing the holiday in the early nineteenth-century. It was only in amidst the national disunity of the Civil War that Lincoln re-established the holiday as a means to reaffirm a sense of national unity. In this context, the story of the original Thanksgiving garnered new meaning, representing an ideal of people sharing a land together in spite of their differences.

Thanksgiving: Fictions, Facts, and How to Deal with Them

There are several things we can do to make our Thanksgiving celebrations less problematic when expressing appreciation with friends and family. We can discuss Native American Heritage Month, and watch documentaries about Indigenous history and mistreatment of Indigenous Americans during early colonization and in more recent years. We can talk about Indigenous social movements, like the push to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day (which has already succeeded in some locations).

Tips for the Giving Season: Making Charitable Donations

There are some parts of the rating system that really are not controversial and can be of enormous benefit to potential donors. Charities that are systematically off the scale in areas of financial non-transparency or threats of (or actually documentation of) self-dealing should raise a red-flag. But, at the end of the day, if you’ve studied the charity and its mission (and better yet, have personal experience with its programs) and you are happy with what you see, the less important the overhead/transparency debate should be for you.