As we head into Thanksgiving weekend, I want to spend a few minutes sharing resources with everyone about this holiday from our school’s framework of antibias education. Holidays like this one are culturally nuanced; for many people this is a rare time when loved ones have sufficient time away from work to travel and spend time with their families. There are deeply meaningful traditions embedded in many families’ lives around Thanksgiving.

There are also incredibly harmful myths and messages in how the Thanksgiving holiday has been discussed both in schools and at home for the past few generations.

Here are a few ways to decolonize (sometimes known as Indigenizing) your Thanksgiving traditions:

Combat erasure by learning the real story of Thanksgiving

With very young children, sometimes the most powerful thing we can do is simply avoid misinformation by educating ourselves. You can learn more about the real story of Thanksgiving and how it became an American holiday here and here. By eliminating the myths and stereotypes from the stories we tell, we are giving our children a more respectful framework from which to build their understanding as they get older.

Keepunumuk by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten is a children’s book about Thanksgiving written from an Indigenous perspective. Stories written by Indigenous authors & illustrators can help paint a more respectful picture of both harvest traditions and the historical events that inspired the modern myth of Thanksgiving.

Celebrate in connection with the land you reside on

For every family this might look a little different. If you live in the greater Seattle area you likely live on the ancestral lands of the Duwamish Tribe – you can learn more about the Duwamish people and land acknowledgments at their website. You might also take time to research foods native to where we are and serve locally & ethically grown options at your celebrations.

Here are a few children’s books about the Seattle area and Salish Sea which you might consider reading with your young children:

If You Want to Visit a Sea Garden by Kay Weisman and Roy Henry Vickers

Northwest Coast Native Animals by Garfinkel Publications

Similar books to this one featuring authentic artwork are all available through the Duwamish Tribe’s shop

1-2-3 Salish Sea by Nikki McClure

Celebrate in connection with your own heritage

For those who know their ancestry, it can be very meaningful to connect young children with where they come from. Regardless of your family’s background you might spend time talking about how you came to live in the Seattle area, sharing stories from elders in your family, or sharing your own traditional foods. By sharing our heritage with our children we can give them meaningful ways to celebrate without appropriating the practices of other communities.

Participate in #Landback and other advocacy efforts

In the process of learning more about the history of colonization, we can reach for meaningful restorative action to be taken both locally and globally. Some families use Thanksgiving each year as a reminder to renew their Real Rent contributions. We can also participate in global action by learning more about colonization in current times, donating to relief funds, and demanding justice for those being harmed in the most recent acts of oppression.

Finally, for some place-oriented guidance on celebrating Thanksgiving in meaningful and restorative ways I’d like to share the Duwamish Tribe’s Holiday Placemat.

You can download your own here

Credit is due to the following organizations:

The Duwamish Tribe – The First People of Seattle.

Bioneers, a non-profit organization focused on connecting people with resources rooted in environmental and social justice and their Indigeneity Department. For more information you can read their articles on Decolonizing Thanksgiving Celebrations.

Cultural Survival, a program seeking to advocate for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and support self-determination, political resilience, and culture for Indigenous Communities. For their full list of ways to Decolonize Your Thanksgiving Dinner, read more here!

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