On Nov. 15, students gathered in the University of Maine Memorial Union, filling seats around the North Pod and Bears Den in order to take part in this year’s Multicultural Thanksgiving. This dinner, hosted by the Office of Multicultural Student Life and Student Heritage Alliance Council (S.H.A.C), brought hundreds of staff and students together to celebrate.
The Thanksgiving meal included a presentation from many speakers about the importance of the holiday and ways it is celebrated. Stories about Native American heritage were highlighted in recognition and celebration of Native American Heritage Month. Many clubs and organizations, including the Black Student Union, German club, French club, Asian Association of Maine, Asian Student Association, Hillel UMaine’s Jewish Organization, Iota Nu Kappa, UMaine’s Multicultural Fraternity, the Franco-American Resource Opportunity group, and Crew volunteered to help cook and serve food to the people who attended.
Staff from the LGBTQ Services, Psychology Department and Dining Services gathered around tables and joined in on the festive evening. People had the ability to meet with peers, sit with club and staff members, and share stories of how their family celebrates the tradition. They also asked questions and talked with club members who organized the event, in order to learn more about the tradition of Thanksgiving across dozens of different cultures.
Food from many different cultures and countries was prepared and served, as well as the traditional Thanksgiving foods American families prepare for the holiday. This wide array of food included tacos, lo mein, rice, crab rangoon, mac and cheese, cranberry sauce, turkey, stuffing, desserts, dips, devilled eggs, samosas, pudding, and many other delicacies that represent different parts of American and foreign culture.
“We try our best to make everyone feel included during the holiday season,” Crew member Michaela Hagman said. “This is especially for the students who might be from other places or visiting from different countries. Many people have never experienced an American Thanksgiving before, and without events like these they would miss out on the chance to learn about new traditions.”
The meal is a part of a collection of events on campus that are organized in order to reflect on the importance of Native American Heritage Month and raise awareness of the real history behind Thanksgiving. The UMaine community came together in order to celebrate this holiday, and shed light on the meaning and history behind this treaty between indigenous people and early English settlers.
“We need to acknowledge the historical perspective of Thanksgiving,” Silvestre Guzman, director of the Office of Multicultural Student Life said.
Guzman, along with David Patrick, Dylan Smith and other members of the community, spoke in a presentation at the beginning of the event about its importance and historical implications. A Member of UMaine’s Wabanaki Center, and lecturer, John Bear, informed guests about the significance of the day, and debunked the myth that many Americans think was the start of the holiday that began in Massachusetts.
“Native American culture hosts multiple ceremonies to be thankful for what we have been given by our Creator, and what is available to us in the natural world that we have lived off of for thousands of years,” Dylan Smith, President of the American Indian Student Association, said. “Everyday the sun rises is a day to be thankful.”
The next event in the series will be a presentation by Sherri Mitchell titled, “Decolonizing Our Hearts and Minds” on Monday, Nov. 19 in the Bangor Room of the Union.