So, What’s Everyone Doing for Thanksgiving?

Photo taken by Lee Hall on 14 Nov. 2023

So, What’s Everyone Doing for Thanksgiving?

The last time I did “Turkey Day” was back in the 20th century. As usual, I’ll be at SuTao Café in Malvern, Pennsylvania—our best local spot for animal-free dining. I’ll have plenty of company. Not only because people are going vegan, but because they’ve heard about the 1637 Pequot massacre.

That’s when European settlers killed hundreds of Indigenous adults and kids and set their village aflame. They banned the word Pequot. They celebrated with praise and thanksgiving to God—for such spectacular obliteration of a community that had lived in a place for ten thousand years. Governor John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony deemed the massacre date an annual holiday.

Eventually, the celebration went federal. According to Philadelphia Magazine:

Thanksgiving was made an official federal holiday in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, less than a year after he authorized what remains to this day the nation’s largest ever mass execution—the hanging of 38 Sioux men in Mankato, Minnesota in December 1862.

Good ol’ Honest Abe.

Conquest Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

In 1880, Anthony J. Drexel and George W. Childs purchased the tract now known as the Philadelphia Main Line and changed the town of Louella to Wayne, after “Revolutionary leader and Indian fighter” Anthony Wayne. You’d think more recent leaders would have renamed the town Sorry Does Not Cover It, Pennsylvania. Not yet. The Wayne Post Office still features Alfred Crimi’s mural of Anthony Wayne standing over the dying body of an Indigenous resister.

For extra glorification, the mural contains additional versions of Anthony Wayne: the land surveyor; the “gentleman farmer” and equestrian. The painting is highlighted by recessed lighting on the sides, and ceiling-mounted spotlights.

For the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum website, Meghan A. Navarro described the painting:

Note the fallen Indian behind his boots, positioned as the last barrier Wayne had to step beyond in order to open up the Northwest Territory to American settlers, confining the Shawnee, Delaware and Wyandot to only about 25% of their homeland.

The Lenni Lenape (Delaware) people once lived on the land where I’m writing this article, where the Wayne Post Office now exists. “They would likely not agree,” Navarro added, “that Anthony Wayne’s victory at Fallen Timbers is something to celebrate and immortalize on the wall of a Federal public building.”

But here we are.

In totality, the settlers’ westward sprawl usurped 1.5 billion acres of Indigenous land. Much of it went to the states for the land-grant colleges which have done so much to advance animal agribusiness. Is it merely coincidental that the territory of the United States ranks #1 for extinctions of nonhuman life?

And what of Indigenous languages and ecological knowledge? In this time of climate crisis, much of what’s disappearing could be life-sustaining.

Mystic, Connecticut, the site of the Pequot massacre, is now slathered with dismal distractions: “encounters” with captive whales and trained sea lions. Our domineering tendencies persist through shape-shifting.

Cashew Nut Roast and a Post Script

Will we ever learn to respect evolution, unfettered? Can we acknowledge genocide that implicates us? Can we find the strength of character to care rather than compete? To appreciate the role of every living community on this one and only Earth? Many of our celebrated traditions reflect what we must transcend.

For those creating new traditions, and seeking ideas for peaceful dishes to share, let me try to be useful. Here is a satisfying nut roast recipe given to me 40 years ago, by the person who convinced me to become a vegan then.

Ingredients (organic, as much as possible):

½ lb. cashew pieces; 4 oz. brown rice; 6 oz. rye toast crumbs—include the caraway seeds or a dash of celery seed. One medium onion, chopped; 2 cloves garlic, minced; 2 large, ripe tomatoes; 4 Tbsp. olive oil; up to ¼ cup vegetable broth (depends on the consistency you prefer); 2 tsp. brewer’s yeast; ½ tsp. each dried basil and dried thyme. A squeeze of lemon and a pinch of ground pepper.

What to do with them:

Cook rice until tender; grind cashews. (No machine needed. Run a rolling pin or jar over bagged nuts.)

Chop onion and garlic finely and heat in oil until they are slightly brown; chop and add one of the tomatoes; simmer until soft. Add the broth. Combine all. Press mixture into two glass pie baking dishes. Slice second tomato to decorate top. Dab the tomato slices with a bit of olive oil; then bake for 30 minutes or a bit longer (until the edges are browning) at 350°F / 175°C. Cut the roast into slices to serve as a main or side dish.

Post script: As we share our meals in the comfort of heated rooms, may we stay mindful of the colonial violence that rages in some areas, and reverberates in others. Diné activists resist Navajo-Hopi land takings by state-supported fossil fuel extractors. Land defenders from the Fort Belknap Indian Community and Rosebud Sioux, the Cheyenne River Sioux, and the Standing Rock Sioux struggle to stop pipeline construction. Queer, eco-justice, and migrant rights advocates work to protect communities, human and other, along the US–Mexico border. These are just some examples of locally organized work to overcome settler colonial mindsets. They need our support.

And as the festive season draws near, the trail of tears is now trodden by the Palestinian people; may we refuse to excuse or brush this aside for the sake of petty peace and quiet at polished and decorated tables. May we actively support the quests for liberation of all living communities who live under others’ coercive control.

Thanks go out to Chris Kelly and Harold Brown for conversations helpful to this writing; and to Robin Lane, from whom I learned that veganism is a recipe for calling out subjugation.

Lee Hall holds an LL.M. in environmental law with a focus on climate change, and has taught law as an adjunct at Rutgers–Newark and at Widener–Delaware Law. Lee is an author, public speaker, and creator of the Studio for the Art of Animal Liberation on Patreon.