Gary Horton | We’ve Got Much to Be Thankful for

Gary Horton

We all know the story of the First Thanksgiving, with pilgrims and American natives sitting down at a long table, filled to the brim with delicious food, all enjoyed in communal peace. We’ve heard the part about the American natives showing needy and non-documented immigrant pilgrims how to plant corn with fish placed with the seeds. We know these stories, and we hope there was such a time of mutual respect, love and sharing. 

But in this era of increasing social justice awareness, we also know things didn’t work out well for the native peoples. A couple of hundred years forward, after distribution of smallpox infested blankets and hundreds of “Indian wars” – we new Americans had exchanged our turkeys and Thanksgiving goodwill for guns and biological warfare, as we reduced our once-friends to a fraction of their Thanksgiving Day population, cramming our original peoples into reservations upon some of the most inhospitable land on the continent. “Thanks, for nothing,” many Native Americans still likely, rightly think. 

Yet, through all the twists and turns of our ever-westward, messy “manifest destiny” expansion, a giant chunk of what was once Native land morphed into the giant Rancho San Francisco, eventually purchased by our first Newhall, (Henry Mayo) — and well, the rest is history. 

Time flies and things have changed, and through the twists and turns of our too-often bloodied history, Thursday we’ll find ourselves munching turkey in our neat stucco boxes on top of where Natives once encamped.  

The younger of us today are true Santa Clarita Valley natives, born and bred. Others, like myself, immigrated 10 miles north from the San Fernando Valley decades ago. My own youthful immigration turned out to be a fortunate historical twist for our Horton clan. Indeed, landing here on this misappropriated land has been fortunate for nearly everyone who ever immigrated here, Natives and the St. Francis Dam tragedy notwithstanding. 

The land encompassing today’s SCV has long been a place to grow and prosper. Good weather, reasonable rainfall (what used to be), good soil, oil, gold, and minerals, all combined to allow early Santa Clarita-area immigrants to prosper. From oil drillers, bank robbers, Hollywood Western stars, real estate moguls and everyday people – us Santa Clarita “pilgrims” have long had much for which to express thanks. We should call this place, “Thankful Valley” because it deserves to be! 

In modern days, Newhall’s Rancho San Francisco has been developed, built and improved to become a model city for all of California and the whole USA. Give thanks for so much that is good around us! 

Give thanks for the careful planning that’s brought us our beautiful parks in abundance. Our paseos, our pathways, our public spaces for recreation and exercise. 

Give thanks that caring teachers, administrators and leadership have developed and protected our fine public schools, among the best in the state. 

Give thanks for prudent city leadership, where infrastructure is kept up, where we’re fiscally prudent, and where elected leaders act for the public good. 

Give thanks for all our dedicated, inventive and caring public servants at College of the Canyons, educating and creating careers for 26,000-plus students! And for all the artistry and prestige of CalArts. 

And give thanks for our wonderful philanthropy present throughout our city… Indeed, just the other day, L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger shared that SCV’s philanthropy is truly unmatched in any other L.A. County community. Our giving spirit is the glue binding us to make us uniquely fortunate. 

And so, we give thanks for all the folks, up and down the ladder, supporting and building Bridge to Home, Family Promise, and all who’ve donated and volunteered and who work tirelessly at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. Give thanks for all the parent volunteers at our schools, and at our park programs and in our youth sports. Give thanks for our Senior Center, so supported by our community. And for the social work and good deeds of our abundance of faith-based groups… We enjoy such generous volunteerism in our town! 

Give thanks that we’re a connected community. That from our jumbled, messy history, which somehow landed us all here as the original undocumented immigrants which we are, to this place we’ve jointly settled, jointly built, and now jointly enhance and protect. 

We just held our annual Christmas tree lighting event in Old Town Newhall. Main Street filled to the brim for the event where, on what used to be a backwater aging street, is now a vibrant art and culinary center, all lit up for our holidays. Give thanks for a city dedicated to progress. 

We live in a wonderful town where actual (most?) working folk can afford to live in some of the best conditions affordable at any reasonable monetary price.  

And value that all we enjoy here derives from the personal commitment, sacrifice, philanthropy, hard work, and, lest we forget – the cost and loss of Natives long ago forcibly removed. 

This Thanksgiving, in our remembering, let’s be humble and gracious for what we ourselves enjoy. And in that joy and gracefulness, “pay thanks forward” to everyone around us – the fortunate and unfortunate. Those like us, and those unlike us – who like us also, may be immigrants.  

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. May humility, joy, and appreciation of this special day motivate all of us to further serve one another and continue building a community of opportunity, safety, joy and justice for all.  

Helping others along our life’s path is indeed our best way of “thanks giving.” 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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