Jenny Chabot, PhD, CCLS
Associate Professor, Ohio University
Child and Family Studies
In celebrating and supporting the ACLP’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts, how do we honor Thanksgiving knowing it can be a very problematic holiday in our history? How do we create celebrations that are culturally appropriate and do not gloss over the true story of that first Thanksgiving dinner? To borrow a headline from National Public Radio, how do we enjoy the holiday, “…Without Swallowing the Stereotypes?” (npr.org, 2017). We can celebrate the tradition of gathering friends and family, especially when many families were not able to gather due to the first wave of Covid-19 impacting holiday gatherings, and we can do this while acknowledging the painful, actual history of the origins of this holiday.
One recommended conversation to have with loved ones, especially children in our families, can focus on the Indigenous communities in your geographical area. Learn about and share the unique histories and cultures of these communities and discuss the importance of not believing stereotypes they may be seeing in their schools and the media that depict Thanksgiving rituals and traditions. There are several helpful resources indicated throughout this blog that assist you with conversation starters with your families and give you ideas to celebrate the holiday in an ethically responsible way.
1. The McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership has some wonderful ideas and resources adults can use to educate children about Thanksgiving in a culturally sensitive way. Shared fromhttps://mccormickcenter.nl.edu/library/celebrating-thanksgiving-respectfully, these include:
The Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian has many resources on transforming teaching and learning about Native Americans. Check out the many resources they offer here: https://americanindian.si.edu/nk360/
Parent Map provides a list of children’s books that highlight true stories of Native Americans. Take a look here for the complete list and description of each book: https://www.parentmap.com/article/childrens-books-that-share-the-true-stories-of-native-peoples-in-america
Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance) website has a list of resources to help us accurately teach and share the story of Thanksgiving. Check out their information here: https://www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/teaching-thanksgiving-in-a-socially-responsible-way
Interfaith Workers Justice offers a Racial Justice Guide to Thanksgiving that can be used by educators, families, and other professionals. Their resources include historical resources, book lists, and lesson plans. Check it out here: http://www.iwj.org/resources/a-racial-justice-guide-to-thanksgiving-for-educators-and-families
2.Cultural Survival lists eight ways to decolonize the holiday and each way is packed with multiple resources to help guide us through each way listed. Shared from https://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/8-ways-decolonize-and-honor-native-peoples-thanksgiving, their list includes:
Learn the Real History of Thanksgiving. 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. Multiple resources to learn more about the history are listed on the Cultural Survival website (cited above and in the reference list).
Decolonize Your Dinner. Bring Native American dishes to the dinner table. The website lists multiple links that provide resources to help you do this. Additionally, Bon appétit suggests taking time to learn where all your Thanksgiving dishes come from. For example, a common misperception is potatoes come from the Irish, but they are an indigenous food (www.bonappetit.com).
Buy Native This Holiday. Buy goods, services, and products made by Native Americans and support local and national businesses owned by Indigenous people.
3. The non-profit organization dedicated to social change, DoSomething (www.dosomething.org) discusses some simple steps we can take to honor Thanksgiving in a culturally sensitive way. Their site reaffirms many of the steps discussed in this blog above but also adds some new ideas. Shared from https://www.dosomething.org/us/articles/truthsgiving-the-true-history-of-thanksgiving, DoSomething suggests steps including:
Speak about Native peoples in a respectful way. The site includes a link to a guidebook for allies and includes ways to start conversations with loved ones about this issue.
Acknowledge whose land you’re on at this very moment. Enter your zip code to find out whose traditional territory you’re residing in. Take a minute to learn more about them and honor their enduring relationship to the land.
Learn more about the impact of invisibility on Native peoples. Do Something recommends the Klepper docuseries episode titled Invisible Nation and they includes a viewer’s guide to help further our understanding as we watch.
“Thanksgiving comes but once a year, but reasons to give thanks are always here.”
In honor of this November month, we would love for you to share in the comment box what and/or whom you are grateful for this Thanksgiving. If you have any special Thanksgiving meal recipes that honor Indigenous culture and peoples, also share those in the comment box.
8 Ways to Decolonize and Honor Native Peoples on Thanksgiving. (2018, November). https://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/8-ways-decolonize-and-honor-native-peoples-thanksgiving
Chopra, S. (2020, November). Can we Respectfully Celebrate Thanksgiving? Bon appétit. https://www.bonappetit.com/story/can-we-respectfully-celebrate-thanksgiving
How to Enjoy Thanksgiving Without Swallowing the Stereotypes (2017, November). https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/11/22/565675411/how-to-enjoy-thanksgiving-without-swallowing-the-stereotypes
LaGrande, W. (2020, November). Celebrating Thanksgiving Respectfully. https://mccormickcenter.nl.edu/library/celebrating-thanksgiving-respectfully/
Menjivar, J. (ND). Truthsgiving: The True History of Thanksgiving, and how you can support Native Communities this holiday and beyond. https://www.dosomething.org/us/articles/truthsgiving-the-true-history-of-thanksgivin