The original feast between colonists and Native Americans took place in 1621. It is believed over 140 people were present. They ate more venison than turkey and there was no shopping, but it was rooted in gratitude. Pilgrims knew they wouldn’t have survived their first year without the Wampanoag’s help and decided to share their harvest in thanks and celebration.

But the peace was short-lived. After a decade of living as harmonious neighbors, thousands of additional settlers arrived with a hunger for land and a gift of the plague, which wiped out over half of the Wampanoag people. It was the beginning of a new narrative in what is now America, a narrative that didn’t celebrate or respect its indigenous population. I recently read that, today, many Native Americans consider Thanksgiving a somber occasion where, if they celebrate anything, they celebrate their legacy as survivors against great odds.    

Yeah, cue the Debbie Downer music, I know. But Empower Her Network doesn’t believe in rewriting the past; some realities can’t be glossed over with a day of national recognition. Instead, we focus on the best next step because circumstance is all that separates us and circumstances can be changed.

The survivors in our program are thankful for the network today, just as they were yesterday, and will be tomorrow.

-Abby Fabiaschi