Decolonizing Thanksgiving: Dismantling the Mythos
This is our annual Decolonizing Thanksgiving newsletter, which is part of a commitment Bioneers made in 2016 to share the truth of what this holiday means for Native Americans and all Americans. Beyond sharing the information and resources below, we’re taking our commitment one step further this year with the publication of our Decolonizing Thanksgiving deep-dive resource.
On this page, you’ll find a collection of content and tools related to decolonizing Thanksgiving, and you’ll also find our guides to decolonization in general. We’ve also included a selection of resources and tools from tribes, educational institutions, and Native-led organizations to support continued engagement.
We hope you’ll take a moment to browse through what we’ve collected here and to consider what the decolonization of your Thanksgiving might look like this year.
The True, Indigenous History of Thanksgiving
The American mythos of the First Thanksgiving erases a large part of the history of European colonialism and its impact on tribal nations. For the true story of what happened at the First Thanksgiving, and how Indigenous lives have been affected ever since, Bioneers’ Indigeneity Program’s Alexis Bunten (Aleut/Yup’ik) hosted a conversation with Chris Newell (Passamaquoddy), the Director of Education for the Akomawt Educational Initiative.
3 Ways to Decolonize Thanksgiving
While thanksgiving can inspire gratitude, nurture relationships, and bring families together, celebration should not come at the expense of the history of the Nations Indigenous to North America. For many Native people, the holiday is a national day of mourning. Decolonizing thanksgiving can establish new traditions seated in healing, reciprocity, and kinship.
Whose Ancestral Territories Are You Living On?
A fundamental task for non-Indigenous people who want to be better allied with Indigenous people is to learn whose land they are currently living on. Identifying the Nation native to the land you live on can foster gratitude, humility and open doors to learning more about the history of colonial dispossession.
A Lesson Plan & Teacher’s Guide to The Real Thanksgiving
The story of Thanksgiving begins with the Wampanoag tribe and European settlers. In this teacher guide, walk through the real history of thanksgiving with an in-depth lesson plan that includes drawing activities, discussion questions, and videos.
- From Smithsonian Magazine: “The Myths of the Thanksgiving Story and the Lasting Damage They Imbue” | David Silverman, a history professor at George Washington University, challenges the history of thanksgiving narratives and colonialism.
- From Scholastic: “If You Lived During the Plimoth Thanksgiving” | In this brand new book for young people, Chris Noodlz dives into a comprehensive examination of the history of Plimoth and the first thanksgiving.
- From truthsgiving.org: “Decolonize and Celebrate Truthsgiving with Indigenous Peoples” | Truthsgiving is a collective effort from Indigenous community organizers to uplift the actions of Tribal Nations that are attempting to abolish institutionalized and aggrandized white supremacy that is supported through the thanksgiving mythology.