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How to Honor Native Americans This Thanksgiving

The celebration of Thanksgiving brings a mix of emotions among Americans. What we once learned as children, as adults became a myth. Whitewashed accounts of the first Thanksgiving created harmful stereotypes and racism surrounding Native Americans. Now more than ever, it is important to share truth and portray Native Americans as they are: human beings and the original owners of this land, with dynamic and powerful cultures. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to go beyond the mainstream narrative and focus on common values: generosity, gratitude, diversity, inclusion and community. So, how can you and your family uphold these values and honor Native Americans this Thanksgiving?

1. Share the Real Story of Thanksgiving with Your Family

It is crucial to share the truth about the genocide of Native peoples in America. The conversation may be uncomfortable for some, but ignoring it diminishes Native Americans’ tragic history following European settlers’ arrival and their continuing struggle to maintain their communities, customs and heritage and protect the same from extinction.

“When talking to children about Thanksgiving,” Stephanie Fryberg, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, tells Yahoo Life, “keep things age-appropriate.”

But, says IllumiNative CEO Crystal Echo Hawk, “Tell them the truth, as hard as it is, as uncomfortable as it can be. We’re all having to do the work of recognizing how our actions uphold these false stories that are biased and harmful. The best thing we can do, what we owe to our children, is a truthful history.”

Hawk says that we can’t put a stop to systemic racism until we “acknowledge the role genocide and racism played in the creation of this country.” She adds, “It’s the only way we learn. It’s the only way we can do better. It’s the only way we create a better future.”

2. Serve or Talk About Indigenous Foods

While everyone loves to eat turkey and cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, most people aren’t aware that these foods originated within the Native American community. Try this Native recipe with your family and incorporate it into your holiday meal or any family dinner, and use it as an opportunity to learn about other amazing Native dishes!

Native American Recipe: Algonquin Wild Nut Soup

Ingredients:

  • 24 oz Hazelnuts, crushed
  • 6 ea Shallots, with tops
  • 3 tbl Parsley, chopped
  • 6 cup Stock, vegetable, beef, venison or chicken
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Black pepper

Place all ingredients in a large soup pot & simmer slowly over a medium heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

3. Watch Native Documentaries and Videos

While your Thanksgiving meal digests, opt to record the football game in order to have a family movie night to learn more about accurate Native culture and history.

Focus on films, documentaries and educational videos written by or featuring Native individuals.

Trying starting with the historical PBS docuseries American Experience: We Shall Remain, which spans 300 years of Native history, focusing on a particular historical period in each of the five episodes and told through Native voices.

4. Buy Native This Holiday 

Cultural Survival Bazaar will be hosting online events this holiday season that supports Native artists. Shop now and support Indigenous businesses!


During this season, we should continue to honor and recognize Native Americans as the first people of this nation and commemorate their cultural heritage and integral importance to our past, present and future.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of A Second Chance, Inc.

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