Monday, October 12, 2020

Giving Thanks

This is Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, a weekend where we gather with family and friends and have good food, give thanks for the harvest, and reflect on our blessings. It does not have anything to do with the Vikings' or Jacques Cartier's landings here, or Columbus's further south. Here is a great article I found from the Canadian Encyclopedia explaining the origins of our Canadian Thanksgiving and the differences from the American one. Indigenous peoples have celebrated the fall harvest and given thanks for the bounty of this land, Turtle Island, for centuries before the arrival of settlers. So settlers did not invent this holiday, though they did bring the idea of the cornucopia with them, which itself, interestingly, according to the article, "dates back to European peasant societies."

I started being more aware, or becoming 'woke' as the expression seems to be these days, of the importance of Indigenous peoples whenever I think of my country, thanks to doing the 150 Canadian Women QAL in 2017 with Kat of Next Step Quilting Designs. She included several Indigenous women in the quilt; one in particular who really grabbed me was Shanawdithit, the last living member of her tribe, the Beothuk in Newfoundland. White settlers killed them all, directly and indirectly. I made a quilt in her honour, Beothuk Star, (link to the pattern is here), and learned more about her and her people. I've continued to do small things to educate myself and to try to make a difference in helping others to get this same awareness.

So today, I am doing something that has come naturally to me for many years, expressing gratitude. However, this year, and now always a part of my gratitude is acknowledging that,
1. first and foremost I am grateful to be allowed to live here in this part of Turtle Island, a part of Treaty 2, signed in 1790, the land of the Anishinabewaki, Attiwonderonk, Myaamia and Mississauga First Nations. 
The large island is Pelee Island, and I live directly north of it, on the pinkish shore, to the west of the pointy piece of land, which is Point Pelee National Park.

You may recall that I am auditing Indigenous Canada, an online course through the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. It is free, and I strongly encourage all of my Canadian readers to take this course. Many Americans are taking it as well, and it is pertinent for you too, in many ways. Here is the link, through Coursera. It is, as any university course is, 12 weeks in length, though you can move along faster if you like. It averages about 1.5 hours per week. It should be required for every settler Canadian, and should be taught in school right from grade 1. This week, Module 8, was Sovereign Lands. There is always an online discussion of the Module amongst the two professors, Dr. Tracy Bear and Dr. Paul Gareau, Dan Levy (yes, of Schitt's Creek fame, who announced on Instagram that he was taking this course and encouraged us to follow suit), and one special guest, that is streamed on YouTube on Sunday at 3 pm EST. This was what I posted on Instagram on Sunday after last week's discussion:

There are multiple kernels of wisdom I gain from listening to the discussion, and they are up there on Dan's YouTube channel, so you can watch/listen to them whenever works for you. Something he said yesterday I managed to scribble down, and it makes me quite emotional. To be honest, lots has throughout the course's teachings.

"How lucky are we, to live upon this sacred land."

Embedded within that, is 'How important a task have we, to not only recognize this, but to take care of this sacred land.'

I've always felt connected to the land, whether it was on our acreages in Alberta or our homes here in southwestern Ontario. But now, I also come from a place of profound gratitude, yet also with a profound sense of trying to do my part to right wrongs. Indigenous peoples have lived on this continent of North America, aka Turtle Island, for  thousands of years. When the first Europeans arrived, a mere 400 years ago, they agreed to share the land in good faith, never suspecting the white settler would not keep up their end of the agreement, would not honour and respect the land and its inhabitants, flora, fauna and human, as do Indigenous peoples, and worst of all, would try to annihilate them. For this I am deeply sorry, and therefore I am really trying hard to respect the land and the Indigenous peoples to whom it rightly belongs. In actual fact, did you know that they do not presume to own the land, but have a partnership with it, viewing it as a sentient being: the land provides and they only take what they need in a respectful way.
I could just see Pelee Island through the trees on the horizon, but sadly, it doesn't show in this photo.

So this weekend one morning I woke up, and this is what went through my mind before my feet hit the floor.
2. I am grateful for the birds I hear this morning.
3. I am grateful for the open window that allowed me to hear.
4. I am grateful for my ears, my sense of hearing.
5. I am grateful for my home, that has windows.
6. I am grateful for this bed, for my pillow, and for my quilts that keep me warm.

Those five thoughts flew threw my brain in a few seconds. And now I will add,

7. I am grateful for my family, my husband, my daughters, my son-in-law and my grandson, and that they are all in good health.
8. I am grateful for my fur kids, who bring joy every day, and who love unconditionally.
9. I am grateful for my good health, and for my real-life friends, and the richness they add to my life.
10. I am grateful for this blog and all the good it has brought to my life, my online community of friends, several of whom I have met in person, and many many with whom I have an ongoing chatty relationship for which I am so grateful. It has enriched my life, and shrunk the globe with the connection, love and care between us. Oh, and not to forget the online community activities!
RSC Project #1 yellow blocks

Another online activity is the OMG I usually remember to link up with, and I am super-happy to say I've already completed my goal, to get the pumpkin quilt to the flimsy stage.
I just may now try to get this quilted and done-done by month's end...

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian readers. May you be safe, smart and diligent in your physical distancing if you gather or did gather already together. We are keeping it simple and staying home, just the two of us. A good place to be methinks.
Such a beautiful surprise gift from the land this year!

And speaking of gifts. (Gosh, I do not always plan these segues; that one was a beauty!) the winner of my Pattern Bundle in celebration of my blog's seventh birthday is Jean of All Points of the Compass! I've emailed her to let her know. Thank you to all those who told me about making (or not) a bear paw quilt! I am leaving the pattern on sale until tomorrow, so if you haven't had a chance to grab it, do it now! Head to Sandra Jane Quilts.


  1. Sandra, thank you so much for the delightful email I received first thing this morning. Coffee made, and then I read your words. I, too, down here as so thankful for so much, and the "house block" will be the first one to be made, a wet day here, so I'm off to fins some batiks, this will be on a bag for a Christmas gift, in fact, there might be several at the same time. Enjoy your online course, and that beautiful lake,with many thanks again, Jean.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving. We do indeed have so much to be thankful for.

  3. I hope you had a happy thanksgiving! I love the pumpkin quilt and can't wait to see how you quilt it.

  4. Happy Thanksgiving; your list of gratitudes resonates and the course you are taking sounds like it is more than worth the time.

  5. Congratulations to you for not just giving lip service to building/reframing your cultural awareness, but to actually taking action by immersing yourself in the online course. That pumpkin quilt is a big one. Can't wait to see how you quilt it. Belated Happy Thanksgiving even if it was a quiet one.

  6. Thanks for this wonderful post Sandra. The information is so useful, and I will look into it all. I have always thought our continents Indigenous peoples have had a much better understanding and appreciation of the flora and fauna we are blessed with, and we wouldn't be in the mess we are, if their ways had been honoured from the start - and politicians would be smart to use their history as a starting place to go forward.
    I love your pumpkins! Take care,

  7. Delightful post, Sandra. I haven’t been online much of late, but I’m certainly glad I stopped by today!

  8. Happy Thanksgiving...late. So grateful for you and all you share.

  9. Great post! I live in Mi’kma’ki. So many things to be grateful about.