November is National Native American Heritage Month! Please learn more about Native American history and contributions to our world to discover the rich heritage and traditions of Native Americans by visiting these websites:
The Truth about Thanksgiving
As we move through the month towards the Thanksgiving holiday how many of us know the true history of Thanksgiving? Many of us were taught to think of this holiday as one of peace and togetherness between pilgrims and Indians without any acknowledgement of the negative impact settlers had on the Native Americans. Sean Sherman (2019) wrote about his experiences as a Native American chef, raised to eat “traditional’ American Thanksgiving foods and believe the holiday was about thankfulness. After the death of his grandparents, he learned the truth about the massacre of the Pequot village in 1637, serving as the foundation for the first Thanksgiving “celebration” and other atrocities suffered by Native Americans at the hand of colonizers.
As Sherman stated, “Thanksgiving really has nothing to do with Native Americans, and everything to do with an old (but not the oldest) guard conjuring a lie of the first peoples welcoming the settlers to bolster their false authority over what makes a “real” American.” Most Americans continue to celebrate Thanksgiving without any thought about the origins of the holiday nor the history of Native and Indigenous peoples. There is little discussion of the elimination of Native American tribes, stealing of land for selfish purposes, nor the boarding schools where Native American youth were subjected to punishments for speaking their native languages and wearing their hair long.
Smithsonian magazine (2019) published an article by Claire Bugos about the myths of Thanksgiving and the lasting damage perpetuated by them. It is important that we learn the history of the holidays and find ways to honor our Native American and Indigenous peoples.
How can you do this? Learn more about these people; research stolen lands you may live and/or work on; visit museums. Make learning about Native American and Indigenous people a goal for yourself and your family.
Sherman (2019) stated that he still chooses to celebrate the holiday by focusing on values of togetherness, generosity, and gratitude and including Native foods on his menu. Familiar Indigenous foods include turkey, corn, pumpkins; while some less familiar foods such as morels, ramps, paw paws and cattails are options to explore. Ultimately, Thanksgiving often brings people together, using this time to honor and explore Native American peoples in small ways can lead to a more inclusive and welcoming world.
Resources to learn more: