When we met with World of Wellesley (WOW) then-president Michelle Chalmers in November 2019, we sought a compromise for Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day. Sadly, our efforts failed. At our meeting, Ms. Chalmers indicated that Thanksgiving Day would be the next holiday that WOW would address.
On the day before Thanksgiving this year, WOW’s website featured the post “Being a Good Guest,” by Joan Aandeg, a member of Wellesley’s Committee for Indigenous Peoples Day. Ms. Aandeg wrote: “What can we celebrate instead of Thanksgiving? We can celebrate Wampanoag resistance. Since 1970, Native people and allies have gathered in Plymouth on the fourth Thursday in November to commemorate a National Day of Mourning. We can honor our Wampanoag hosts by acknowledging the truth of our shared history, and by being good guests.”
My neighbors and I are homeowners, not guests, Ms. Aandeg, on land that belonged to the Massachusett tribe long ago. We care for and take pride in our homes and gardens. We practice sustainability, observe zoning regulations, and pay taxes to the Town of Wellesley.
President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving in 1863, when our nation was deeply divided by civil war. The new holiday, based on events in early American history, aimed to unite Americans over our potential to be one great and undivided nation. Over time, Thanksgiving has become an important interfaith tradition honoring family and community. Most Americans will say that Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday because it is one that we can celebrate together with gratitude for the good in our lives. Thanksgiving symbolizes unity, honoring President Lincoln’s legacy.
Our nation is deeply divided once again. We need holidays to unite us - not divide us over events that happened centuries before we were born. We can acknowledge history, but we cannot change it. Can we embrace our holidays as one people while respecting our differences? Can we be grateful for being citizens of this beautiful town and great nation?
When will this divisiveness end? We suggest that it end by soundly defeating the ballot question to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day at Wellesley’s annual Town election on March 2nd.