Decolonizing Thanksgiving: The Truth from a Disenfranchised People

The story of Thanksgiving has been passed down through generations in our families and school systems as a holiday of togetherness, peace and harmony. Many of you were taught that the first Thanksgiving was a peaceful meal shared between the Native Americans of the region and the first English settlers. Some may remember the typical school plays of Native Americans bringing the gift of a turkey to the pilgrims.

Fast forward to present day – a lot of you now know that this story is fabricated. Unfortunately, only some know the actual devastating history from the viewpoint of Native Americans and even fewer know that Native Americans actually consider mainstream Thanksgiving a Day of Mourning, due to the genocide and disease spread at the hands of white colonizers.

Thanks to the accessibility of the internet, the truth is finally spreading far and wide. We hope with the resources listed below – graciously shared by AJ, a member of our Indigenous Affinity group which meets every Tuesday at 3-4pm via Zoom here – we can uplift the stories and voices of our Native community and bring light to the myth that is the “First Thanksgiving”.

We invite you to learn in depth about the Wampanoag people and the tragedies that befell them as colonizers staked claim over a land that was not theirs to take, by watching the videos below and reading the links and book recommendations provided.

Only in learning our history can we begin to understand our role in reshaping the future and systems around us, and the importance of our awareness to the ongoing oppression since then. Such as the (historical and modern) suppression of BIPOC voices, the mass-spread misrepresentation of American history, and many other injustices.

How do we Decolonize such a popular holiday?
We understand that Thanksgiving is a family centered holiday with themes of thankfulness and love that many hold dear and have many fond memories of, AND giving thanks for what we have does not need to be reserved for only one day out of the year. (Which is ironically followed by a day of overindulgent consumerism.)

One of the actions we would like to invite you to take part in to decolonize this day, is to bring that energy of togetherness and center it in your everyday life instead of on a day associated with much grief and desperate survival. A minor step and change in our habits and way of thinking about being present and grateful that seems so simple, and can have an incredible impact over time individually and collectively.

You can practice giving thanks for your blessings daily and speaking them into existence and your space – especially after the year we have had. Voice your gratitude loudly and proudly with those you love and recognize that thankfulness is an action that can be practiced all year around.

If you feel called to support our Native community after learning about their history, we will be adding updates on funds and non-profits you can donate your time, money and resources to at the bottom of this post.


Notable Videos:

The Pilgrims: European Plague in Native New England, 1616-1619
https://kcts9.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/americanexperience27p-soc-plague/wgbh-americanexperience-the-pilgrims-european-plague-in-native-new-england-1616-1619/

Alliance with Massasoit’s People and the First Thanksgiving
https://kcts9.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/americanexperience27p-soc-alliance/wgbh-americanexperience-the-pilgrims-alliance-with-massasoits-people-and-the-first-thanksgiving/

Important References:

The Pilgrims: Alliance with Massasoit’s People and the First Thanksgiving
https://kcts9.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/americanexperience27p-soc-alliance/wgbh-americanexperience-the-pilgrims-alliance-with-massasoits-people-and-the-first-thanksgiving/

Thanksgiving Promotes Whitewashed History, So I Organized Truthsgiving Instead https://www.bustle.com/p/thanksgiving-promotes-whitewashed-history-so-i-organized-truthsgiving-instead-13154470

Here’s The Crazy Story About Thanksgiving You’ve Never Heard https://www.huffpost.com/entry/thanksgiving-squanto-tisquantum-true-history_n_565471e1e4b0d4093a5917bb

The Wampanoag Side of the First Thanksgiving Story https://indiancountrytoday.com/archive/the-wampanoag-side-of-the-first-thanksgiving-story-TmMLTgQs40aJT_n9T3RMIQ

6 Thanksgiving Myths and the Wampanoag Side of the Story https://indiancountrytoday.com/archive/6-thanksgiving-myths-and-the-wampanoag-side-of-the-story-roJhk2s_AkW9pkyjONXr-w

First “National Day of Mourning” Held in Plymouth https://www.massmoments.org/moment-details/first-national-day-of-mourning-held-in-plymouth.html

The Invention of Thanksgiving https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/11/25/the-invention-of-thanksgiving

THE SUPPRESSED SPEECH OF WAMSUTTA (FRANK B.) JAMES, WAMPANOAG www.UAINE.org/suppressed_speech.htm

A Few Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About Thanksgiving
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/11/151121-first-thanksgiving-pilgrims-native-americans-wampanoag-saints-and-strangers/

Additional recommendations:

This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and The Troubled History of Thanksgiving by David J. Silverman, Native American Historian and Professor at George Washington University

Native/Indigenous Non-Profit Organizations and Funds to Donate to:

Urban Native Education Alliance (UNEA) is a Native/Indigenous Non-Profit Organization partnered with North Seattle College. They serve Native/Indigenous families in the Seattle Area, providing tutoring, cultural learning, and essential groceries for Native/Indigenous families. They also run the Seattle Clear Sky Native Youth program.

To learn more about them and to donate, click the link below:
https://urbannativeeducation.org/

Real Rent Duwamish is a grassroots movement calling on Seattleites to pay ‘rent’ to the Duwamish tribe, to acknowledge their stewardship of the land on which we prosper.

To learn more about this organization, and to donate, click the link below:
https://www.realrentduwamish.org/

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