Thanksgiving is right around the corner. The holiday is, for many, a great excuse to spend time with family. However, for some, it’s a time to reflect and mourn a painful history and legacy of colonialism.
Whatever the case is for you, it’s a good idea to learn the truth behind Thanksgiving, how the struggle for indigenous rights continues today, and what you can do to support those struggles. Here’s five ways to do just that.
1. Get your Thanksgiving history right
The history of Thanksgiving that’s taught in schools couldn’t be further from the truth. Read up on the true history and why it’ important to understand in this article in Truthout.
Here’s an excerpt:
While glossing over the very real consequences of colonialism, the mythical version of Thanksgiving creates a fairytale of land theft, betrayal, brutality, and genocide, virtually functioning to erase the very real and traumatic experiences of entire indigenous nations. This phenomena of whitewashing and outright erasure of indigenous history, in many instances, is not only inhumane and oppressive to the indigenous people, but it is also unfair to all Americans who stand to learn from rich and equally tragic history.
Prefer to watch something over reading? Check out this short video:
2. Recognize the National Day of Mourning
The National Day of Mourning was started by the United Native Americans of New England and supporters in 1970 as a day of remembrance and a way to protest the marginalization of Native Americans. The yearly march and community potluck serves anyone who wants to join. You can find out more about the National Day of Mourning on the UAINE website.
3. Understand how the myth was made
Here’s an interesting narrative of how the story of Thanksgiving came to be, as told by our friends at The Center for Story Based Strategy (CSS). The CSS offers a critical analysis of the popular story of Thanksgiving within the framework of a greater social context.
4. Support the continued struggles and lift up indigenous voices
The Native American struggles for justice continue today. Here’s some of the ways you can support them as well as some of the organizations leading the good fight:
- The Indigenous Environmental Network: “IEN is an alliance of Indigenous Peoples whose Shared Mission is to Protect the Sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination & exploitation by Respecting and Adhering to Indigenous Knowledge and Natural Law.”
- Idle No More: “Idle No More calls on all people to join in a peaceful revolution, to honour Indigenous sovereignty, and to protect the land and water.”
- Find out whose native lands you live on, and then see if there is a local indigenous group that is requesting support.
- Teach your children right with Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years
5. Know how to talk with relatives who don’t agree
Want to know how to talk about politics and the truth around Thanksgiving at the dinner table? Here’s an article about how to engage with your relatives who are less supportive:
It’s our responsibility to go home and have the hard conversations with our family members, because, in many cases, only we have the power to reach them and begin the long work of rooting out bigotry in our communities.
And if you find yourself stuck during these hard conversations, the organization Showing Up for Racial Justice has a text hotline and Thanksgiving toolkit for when those difficult discussions take a turn for the worst.
Thanksgiving is a chance for many to spend time with the people they love. So let’s make sure we also use that time to address the painful legacy it’s built on.
Featured image shared via Flickr user Fibonacci Blue with a Creative Commons license.