Post submitted by Ana Flores, HRC Senior Manager, Inclusion, Education & Engagement
As people across the U.S. gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, it is important to acknowledge that much of what we have been taught about the holiday is actually unverified. Too often, we rewrite history instead of facing difficult truths about our past.
Many people make reference to a celebration of a successful harvest by the pilgrims that was attended by some members of the Wampanoag tribe; while others point to the massacre of the Pequot people as the first Thanksgiving celebration. Thanksgiving itself was not established as a holiday until 1863.
What is clear is that the story that we hear in classrooms of the Pilgrims and Indians living in harmony after sitting down to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal together is not true.
Despite centuries of systematic displacement, marginalization and sustained genocide at the hands of European settlers and European-Americans, Native Americans have shaped the land we know today. Yet, Native American people are still deeply marginalized within the U.S.
Native Americans face high levels of poverty, addiction and incarceration. They experience the highest levels of food insecurity. Native American women and LGBTQ Native American youth face heartbreaking levels of physical and sexual violence. LGBTQ Native American youth report high levels of stress, anxiety and rejection in their homes and communities; as well as high rates of attempted suicide and self medication.
As you come together with friends and loved ones to celebrate this holiday, here are some ways to practice allyship with Native American communities:
- Recognize that all lands in the U.S. are Native lands, and research more about the tribes that are indigenous to your area.
- Learn more about the history of Native American displacement and genocide in the U.S. and share it with your friends. We recommend starting by reading Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s “An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States.”
- Elevate the work of organizations that are run by Native American people and doing work to empower the Native American community.
- Learn more about traditional Native American foods and try to incorporate them into your Thanksgiving dinner.
This Thanksgiving, we must honor and support our Native American family and recommit to centering their lives and stories.