On Thursday, Nov. 19, the Office of Multicultural Student Life and the Student Heritage Alliance Council held “A Multicultural Thanksgiving” in the Estabrooke Ballroom. The event featured a variety of traditional Thanksgiving foods from turkey, potatoes and yams to international fare, such as Caribbean chicken and Asian noodles.
Last year was the first dinner, which was called “An International Thanksgiving.” Jaclyn Serchuk, a graduate assistant in the Office of Multicultural Student Life, said the reason for the name change was to become more inclusive of all cultures, both international and domestic.
The event’s purpose is to celebrate Native American Heritage Month and to prompt a conversation about the truth behind the traditional Thanksgiving story.
“We hope to educate people regarding a version of the real first Thanksgiving story,” Serchuk said. “With such a large Native American population on campus, I think it is important to acknowledge their history and celebrate their culture. In general, it is important for the campus community to learn of other cultures, and for people to understand their own culture and how they fit into the larger picture.”
The Multicultural Thanksgiving included a speech from John “Bear” Mitchell and a drum performance by John Dennis. In addition, there were booklets available that included how other cultures celebrate the harvest and how they give thanks.
Mitchell, associate director of the Wabanaki Center at the University of Maine, spoke at the start of the dinner on the importance of Thanksgiving and what it truly means.
“Harmony is good for our children and for our patriotic self-esteem, but harmony was far from the truth,” Mitchell said. “You’re on Penobscot land here, regardless of what the government says. It sustained us for thousands of years … The land still feeds us, but in different ways.”
Mitchell emphasized the importance of sharing, smiling and being grateful, not only on Thanksgiving, but every day.
“We should smile and laugh — we want to share that with you,” Mitchell said. “Thanksgiving is done every day. We all share Thanksgiving together.”
An array of students were in attendance at the dinner, including those from all over the world. One student in particular, Jay Wegner, came to the event to see the variety of cultures. The third-year civil engineering student from Maryland has already seen many different cultures through his extensive travelling.
“I’ve travelled around the world to many places,” Wegner said. “Coming here and being in a multicultural event, it’s neat for me because I get to see other cultures that I might not have seen in my travels.”
Wegner has been to China, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Austria, Costa Rica and Panama, just to name a few.
“For me personally, I know that up in Maine, I don’t really realize that there are a lot of different cultures at this campus,” Wegner said. “I think an event like this really helps highlight the wide variety of students and cultures that we have here.”