Ways To Honor Indigenous People This Thanksgiving

Do you remember being taught about the “First Thanksgiving” when you were a little kid in elementary school? I sure do. The kindergarten and first grade had to do a mandatory play for the school depicting the first Thanksgiving and it scarred me for life (theater is not my forte.) The kindergartners were the Indians and the first graders were the pilgrims; As I look back on the feather headdresses and moccasin boots that all the kindergartners had to wear, now as an enlightened adult who is well-informed on cultural appropriation, I can’t help but cringe. Nowadays, headdresses are known as one of the main music festival “don’ts,”  but I guess times really have changed a lot since 2002.

Do you also remember reaching a certain age in late childhood or early adolescence when the entire Christopher Columbus and first Thanksgiving narrative we had been taught started to seem fishy? Because I definitely remember that. I would ask questions like “how can a new world be discovered if there’s already people there?” and “what happened to the Indians? Where are they now? I haven’t seen any and I thought we were supposed to all be friends?”

Now that we’re adults, the cat is entirely out of the bag. Native Americans were genocidally murdered and forced from their homes, colonization is a crime against humanity and Christopher Columbus was an assh*le. To clarify that last part, Christopher Columbus is just another example of white, powerful, male Europeans whitewashing global history. And also just straight-up lying about history—he technically didn’t “discover” anything, as my childhood self so boldly questioned, and his first voyage landed in what is now the Bahamas. So, there’s no legitimate reason whatsoever for the United States of America to celebrate him in any way.

Rant aside, the first Thanksgiving lie (that many public schools in this country still teach) is harmful, disrespectful and dehumanizing to the Indigenous people that have suffered so immeasurably at the hands of colonization. Meditating on that can really put a damper on your family Thanksgiving celebration. Trust me, I’ve ruined many a turkey day by arguing with my ignorant grandmother about the ugly, true history of our country. But finding ways to support and honor indigenous people has really helped to ease my guilty conscience, and make those mashed potatoes go down a little easier at the Thanksgiving table.

  1. Beyond Buckskin Boutique sells their own Native-made clothing and jewelry, and they also compiled this list of verified Native-owned small businesses. This Black Friday, you can ethically shop fashion, decor, art, beauty, skincare and more!

  2. 2. Decolonize Your Thanksgiving dinner

    This Huffpost article from last Thanksgiving is a compilation of recipes written by Indigenous chefs, and this NPR article is a collection of recipes excerpted from The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook, written by the head chef of the Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

  3. 3. Donate

    If you’re in college you understand this: nothing, literally nothing, is more helpful than money. The American Indian College Fund, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women are all reputable charitable organizations that would greatly benefit from your donation, no matter how small.

  4. 4. Get Ready to Vote!

    November 3, 2020, the day of the next U.S. presidential election, is less than a year away. Remember the Dakota Access Pipeline and how big of a deal that was? Well in case you didn’t hear, President Trump reversed President Obama’s protection of the indigenous lands by executive order back in 2017, and the pipeline is up and running as we speak. Research the 2020 candidates and make sure you’re voting for a person that shares your feelings on the protection of indigenous people, culture and land.

Have a gracious and conscientious Thanksgiving, Rams!