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9 Ways to Decolonize and Honor Native Peoples on Thanksgiving

Stories told about the first Thanksgiving often perpetuate harmful stereotypes and erase the true history of the early encounters between Native communities and colonizers.

Today we take the opportunity to set the record straight, debunk myths, and acknowledge Native Americans as contemporary Peoples with dynamic and thriving cultures. November is National Native American Heritage Month, offering many opportunities to move past one-dimensional representations of “pilgrims and Indians.” In the spirit of unity, we can instead focus Thanksgiving on common values:  generosity, gratitude, and community. 

We’ve gathered some resources to help you decolonize your Thanksgiving:  

1. Learn About Whose Lands You Are On.
Native Lands App is an interactive map about your area's Indigenous Peoples and languages. 

2.  Learn the Real History. 
Thanksgiving, like Columbus Day, serves as a reminder of the genocide and violence Native communities experienced and continue to experience.  Learn about Thanksgiving and early colonial history from Native perspectives.

The True, Indigenous History of Thanksgiving  by Alexis Bunten
Wampanoag's perspective on the first Thanksgiving
Leonard Peltier's 2019 Thanksgiving Message: "Walking on Stolen Land 
A Thanksgiving Reflection from the Bioneers Indigeneity Program by Alexis Bunten
Watch Captured 1614
Captured 1614: Introduction
This video details the 1614 kidnapping of twenty Wampanoag men from Patuxet, the Wampanoag village that eventually became Plymouth Colony, by European explorers who planned to sell them and the additional seven Native people taken from Nauset on Cape Cod as slaves in Spain. It is an introductory video for the Captured 1614 exhibit created for Plymouth 400 and the Indian Spiritual and Cultural Training Council.  Learn more here.
Why Treaties Matter.

The United States has ratified more than 370 treaties with Native American Nations. Yet, many Americans know little about the treaties that shaped and continue to impact the country today. Learn more here. 
3. Decolonize Your Dinner.
Native chefs have created a culinary movement with the goal of getting Indigenous people to honor their ancestors through their dietary choices. Bring Native American dishes to the dinner table.  

The Thanksgiving Tale We Tell Is a Harmful Lie. As a Native American, I’ve Found a Better Way to Celebrate the Holiday
How to Decolonize Your Thanksgiving Dinner
This Thanksgiving, Make These Native Recipes From Indigenous Chefs

4. Listen to Indigenous Voices.
It was the Wampanoag People, the People of the First Light,  that encountered the Pilgrims when they arrived in Turtle Island from Europe in 1620. Since 1863, Thanksgiving has been celebrated as a national holiday in the United States, mythologizing the violent events that followed European arrival into a story of friendship and mutual sharing. But the reality is that the Wampanoags’ generosity was met with genocide, and this truth has been systematically suppressed in the US education system, government, and popular culture. Listen to an interview with Cedric Cromwell, the Tribal Council Chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Nation.

Watch Teen Vogue's Native American Girls Describe the REAL History Behind Thanksgiving

Watch We Still Live Here: Black Indians of Wampanoag and African Heritage

5. Celebrate Native People.

Read The Works of Native Authors
For many years, Native people were silenced and their stories were marginalized. That's why it's especially important to read stories about Native characters, told in Native voices. Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with these great books by Native writers.
7 Thanksgiving books for kids written from the Native perspective


 Search 47 years of interviews and articles with and about Native and Indigenous leaders from the Cultural Survival Quarterly archives.  

6. Buy Native This Holiday. 
Come to our Cultural Survival Bazaars and support Native artists on December 6-8 and 14-15.  


December 6-8, 2019
Prudential Center
800 Boylston Street (Enter at the corner of Huntington Ave. and Belvidere St.)
Boston, MA 02199

Friday, Saturday 10am - 10pm
Sunday 10am - 8pm

Dec. 14-15, 2019
Cambridge Rindge and Latin School
459 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02138
10am - 5pm

Not local to Boston? Support Native artists online though the Buy Native Campaign.


7. Share Positive Representations of Native People
Project 562 and Red Works Photography showcase contemporary Native America and Canada with grace, beauty, and style. Matika Wilbur and Nadya Kwadibens are changing the perceptions of Native and First Nations people.
Matika Wilbur's 562 Project

Seen through the lens of Nadya Kwandibens

8. End Racist Native Mascots in Sports 
There are still more than 1,000 high school, university and professional teams that continue to have Native American mascots. Though changes have been made at the high school and college levels, at the professional level there has been virtually no change. Start the change in your community. Check out our Abolishing Racist Native Mascots: A Toolkit for Change. Get involved: #NotYourMascot, #ChangeTheName, and #NoHonorInRacism.

NCAI's Proud To Be
NCAI's Proud To Be
9. Attend the Day of Mourning and Alcatraz Sunrise Gatherings
The first Day of Mourning was organized in 1969 at Plymouth Rock. Learn more. 
50th National Day of Mourning:
November 28, 2019     12:00 Noon
Coles Hill, Plymouth, MA

 41st Annual Indigenous Peoples Thanksgiving Sunrise Gathering
On the morning of Thursday, November 28th, 2019 the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) will host the 41st Annual Indigenous Peoples Thanksgiving Sunrise Gathering at Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, CA, Ohlone Territory. This year’s gathering will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Alcatraz occupation. Learn more.