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What Are You Doing To Decolonize Thanksgiving This Year?

Here we go again! It’s time to Decolonize Thanksgiving.

I wrote this blog to update you on some of my thinking about Decolonizing Thanksgiving, and to shamelessly crowdsource some new ideas from you about how to begin to incorporate “new” traditions into one of America’s favorite holidays.

To begin with, here are 3 easy things you can do to Decolonize Thanksgiving:

Honor the Indigenous Peoples on whose land you live. If you don’t know, you can easily research this information at this website.

Eat food Indigenous to America. Really, they are our favorite foods anyway. They are corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, bell pepper, pumpkin, venison, turkey, fish — all the good stuff. Here are some amazing recipes from the former head chef of the Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

Recognize and recap the real story of Thanksgiving to your friends and family.

Indigenous Thanksgiving Foods served at the Pequot Museum, photo credit, Rachael Cerotti

There are many more things you can do to decolonize Thanksgiving. Over the past two years, I have been Decolonizing Thanksgiving by bringing people around the table to honor and recognize the truth of the holiday. I first wrote about how to do it in the 2016 blog, 3 ways to Decolonize Thanksgiving. Last year, I co-hosted a Decolonize Thanksgiving meal made with ingredients native to Central Coast California where I live, that you can read about in the 2017 post, How to Indigenize Thanksgiving.

And, there are so many other things you can do, such as:

  • Educate your family members about colonization in America. Here’s a great lecture you can watch or listen to by Michael Yellowbird.
  • Stand up to teachers indoctrinating young minds with racist activities, like dressing up as Indians and making feather headdresses. Here’s a great resource teachers can use to teach about Thanksgiving from the National Museum of the American Indian.

HOW TO MAKE A NEW TRADITION

Finally, this year I want to address the people in your life who might question your goal to Decolonize Thanksgiving. First of all, Thanksgiving doesn’t lie on hollowed ground. It is a relatively new holiday, proclaimed a day of “thanksgiving and peace” by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 as a way to bring together Americans divided by the Civil War. Here’s a great story about the origins of the holiday.

1863 Battle of Chikamauga, 2 months before Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation.

In America today, some would argue that we need more holidays where we can stop to reflect on what brings us together as a country. During my fascinating discussion about Thanksgiving with Native educator, Chris Newell, I learned that the actual feasting aspect of Thanksgiving is deeply rooted in Indigenous traditions.

So, let’s keep feasting. But, we can also take time with our families and friends to recognize our deep divides, the ongoing racism against people of color, the ongoing erasure of Indigenous Peoples, and patent denial that the wealth of this country was (and still is) based on stolen land and slave labor that divides us by class, race, region, and culture.

It’s hard to change a holiday; I understand. You may encounter naysayers at the table, people who will accuse you of being strange, make fun of you for being woke, or call you an old hippy when you say: “Let’s take a moment to think about the real history of Thanksgiving, and why we have what we have to be thankful for.”

Social change isn’t made overnight. We are the beginning of a movement. And I am confident that most Americans will celebrate a Decolonized Thanksgiving within a generation or two. I’ll be proud to tell my grandkids someday that I was at the forefront of the movement.

Please share with us, what are you planning to do to Decolonize Thanksgiving this year?

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