Thanksgiving, for most of us in the U.S., is a day of enjoying time with our family, giving thanks for our blessings, watching football, and eating lots of food. It’s the kickoff day for the rest of the holiday season. For most of us, it’s a time of happy memories of family and friends. We reminisce about days gone by and family members lost. I don’t know about your family, but a lot of our family’s conversations at Thanksgiving start with “Remember when Mom…” or “Remember when Uncle Sam…” (Yes I had an Uncle Sam). I suspect we all enjoy those stories at Thanksgiving.
For American Indians, the day is not so blessed. It is a day of watching the rest of the country ignore the pain of their past. On “the first Thanksgiving” their people were dying of plagues brought to them by Europeans. Europeans were celebrating a massacre of their children, women, and men on a day their ancestors were giving thanks. Their people were being captured and sold into slavery. There were rewards offered for the murder of their ancestors. Not such a happy time for American Indians, yet the rest of us still celebrate. We poo-poo their grieving and wonder why they are still caught up in their grief after all this time. We ask ourselves, “How can something that brings so much joy to us be so bad?” We continue to let schools teach our children the Thanksgiving myth. We justify our right to celebrate.
Adoption is celebrated in a similar way. We get the entire month of November to listen to people spout about the wonders of adoption. We hear how great it is. We hear how adopters are “saving children” and first mothers are “hero’s” for giving their children away to the more deserving. There may not be the same number of losses the American Indians have suffered, but make no mistake, there have been losses over adoption. First mothers and adoptees have suffered psychological issues and even committed suicide over the pain of their loss.
Adoptees have to hide any pain they may feel and be grateful for their adopters. They are not allowed to celebrate their true family history. The majority are not even allowed to know their true family history. They are not allowed access to their birth certificates. If they were given any family history information, it is often outdated, and, in some cases, lies made up by adoption agencies.
First mothers are told lies or half truths about adoption. They are lauded as “hero’s” before adoption and declared “not worthy” after the adoption. They are told adoption will give their child a better life than anything they could ever provide for them. They are not told their child will likely feel abandoned for the rest of their lives, even if adopted as an infant. They are not told of the psychological and physical suffering their child will likely endure because they are adopted. They are not told that they will grieve the loss of their child for the rest of their lives.
So, next Thanksgiving when I am sitting and eating with my family, I will remember the losses of the American Indians because I will never forget what it feels like to suffer from something that the rest of this country celebrates.