“Thanksgiving” is almost upon us…
…and so is the opportunity to learn and do better for Native peoples. The Thanksgiving story as many people know it is a myth. That’s why it’s important to shift the narrative around this holiday and keep the conversation going long after the leftovers are put away.
I’d like to provide a few informative resources as a starting point for y’all. I hope that you will take some time in the coming week to read these articles, watch these videos, reflect on them, and take action.
First, start by learning the real story as well as where Native communities stand in relation to this day:
Learn about the Wampanoag People, the People of the First Light, who encountered the Pilgrims when they arrived in Turtle Island from Europe in 1620.
The Wampanoags’ generosity was met with genocide, and this truth has been systematically erased in the American education system, government, and popular culture. And even today, they are still fighting against the government for recognition and their lands.
In tandem with the historical truths of Thanksgiving, I’d love for y’all to learn about the significance of the Alcatraz Thanksgiving Occupation:
Here are a few resources for parents or teachers who are taking on the responsibility of teaching children these truths:
How to Tell the Thanksgiving Story to Kids (this is a great guide for redefining the narrative)
Talking to Kids About Thanksgiving: Center Truth, Connection and Being Grateful (and this is a great guide for activities to center gratitude in a respectful way on the holiday, also provides some great children’s books and other educational media)
And maybe even decolonize your dinner plate by learning about and/or bringing Native dishes to the table.
For many, Thanksgiving has become removed from the context of “pilgrims and Indians,” but for many Indigenous peoples, it’s still a symbol of the painful and damaging reality of centuries of genocide, which still manifest in our communities today. Yet, it is also growing to signify the rebirth of the movement of Indigenous resistance. It’s important to respect these multitudes.
I ask that along with taking the time to educate yourself, your families, and friends today you consider a few more action points.
Donate money and consider it paying rent for living on stolen land.
Try to find orgs working with and supporting Indigenous communities in your region specifically (if you don’t know who they are, find out here). If you are unable to find any, here is a list of some I personally admire:
Donate to Indigenous individuals.
A good place to find Indigenous people to support is through the Settler Saturday hashtag on Twitter.
Amplify positive, accurate, and responsible representations of Indigenous peoples and culture.
Too often Indigenous cultures and peoples are boiled down to a painful, stereotypical caricature. And often the only representation Indigenous children grow up with is that of harmful Native mascots. Start by checking out Project 562, which aims to change the way Americans see Native America. And look over this toolkit for abolishing racist Native mascots.
Support Indigenous artists.
Buy their work and support their cultural craft! Share and amplify them. With the holidays coming up, buy gifts from Indigenous businesses and makers — here’s a list I compiled for your convenience of reference!
And last, remember that this is all just a small starting point in the education — the learning and unlearning — you should be doing if you’re a settler on Native land.
Take the time you need to reflect on this, but be extremely intentional. There’s a lot more to dive into, the work never ends. But I’m thankful you’re here at this point this year.