Re-Indigenize Your Thanksgiving

This article contains the content from the 11/20/2020 Bioneers Pulse newsletter. Sign up here to get the newsletter straight to your inbox!

For many Native American families, Thanksgiving is a very complicated day, given the real history behind the holiday and the false narrative around early encounters between colonizers and Native Peoples. This year, obviously, Thanksgiving is complicated for everyone as we transform our plans in order to reduce the spread of disease. Opting not to visit someone’s home in order to limit the spread of disease is, in fact, a useful allegory as we re-learn the real history of Thanksgiving.

Bioneers annually uses this pre-Thanksgiving newsletter to help educate and inform our community around the erasure of contemporary Native peoples and to provide avenues for allyship in support of Indigenous Peoples.

This week, we highlight a Bioneers-produced Indigenous Thanksgiving Comedy Hour, explore how to Decolonize Regenerative Agriculture, share pathways for COVID-19 Relief for Native Communities and more. Read on!

Indigenize Thanksgiving with Bioneers  

Join us for a special Thanksgiving LIVE event November 26 at 5:30 pm PST featuring Native comedians Jackie Keliiaa, Dallas Goldtooth and special guests. Whether you are by yourself or with family this year, we invite all of you to join us for some laughter and fun.

You can join in two ways: watch the live feed on our Facebook page, or log in to the webinar here.

And if you love our programming, we also invite you to make a donation to help support our collective work to make the world a better place. All proceeds will be split between the comedians and the Bioneers Indigeneity Program.

Decolonizing Regenerative Agriculture: An Indigenous Perspective

The First Nations Development Institute provides grants and technical assistance to strengthen Native communities and economies. As their Director of Agriculture and Food Systems Programs, A-dae Romero-Briones (Cochiti/Kiowa) is a compelling voice against the injustices of colonization inflicted on Native People and for the acknowledgment of Indigenous People’s land stewardship as a basis for regenerative agriculture. In this interview with Arty Mangan, Director of Bioneers’ Restorative Food Systems Program, A-dae discusses indigenous perspectives to agriculture.

Read more here.

What do Native Americans REALLY think of Thanksgiving?

Alexis Bunten, PhD., (Aleut/Yup’ik) is an expert in Indigenous, social and environmental programming, and serves as the Co-Director of the Bioneers Indigeneity Program. In this new essay, Alexis explains how to Indigenize Thanksgiving and sheds light on the complex relationships that Native Peoples have with the holiday.

Read more here.

3 Ways to Indigenize Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a collective opportunity to show gratitude, share food, and make meaning together through storytelling. But Thanksgiving is a problematic holiday built on deliberate lies and the ongoing genocide of millions of Native American peoples.

Here are some ideas from the Bioneers Indigeneity Program for how we can all transform and “Indigenize” Thanksgiving in ways that are culturally respectful to Native Americans.

  • Acknowledge First Peoples: Learn the name of the Native Peoples of the place you live, and acknowledge that you are in their ancestral territory. In your opening words to the Thanksgiving meal, you might make it a new tradition to say something like the following: “We are thankful to live on the Monterey Peninsula, the ancestral territory of the Rumsen Ohlone peoples.” Start your research with this app, which provides an interactive map so you can find out whose land you live on.
  • Eat Indigenous Foods: Serving foods indigenous to where you live can be a daunting research task. However, there are some foods that are indigenous to North America, such as turkey and “the 3 sisters” that you will probably be serving anyway. You can learn about the significance of the 3 sisters to Native Americans in this presentation by Kiowa chef, Lois Ellen Frank, given at the Bioneers Conference. Knowing the cultural significance and meaning of these foods to place will increase your enjoyment, fulfillment and well-being connected to the Thanksgiving meal.
  • Learn Local History: Learn the real story of the place that you live. If you live in America, this inevitably means learning about the histoory of genocide and colonization. This information can be painful to learn, but it is critically important to know true history so that it cannot be repeated.

Read more here about Bioneers’ Alexis Bunten’s own journey to “Indigenize” Thanksgiving.

Help Fund COVID-19 Relief in Indian Country

Since our inception, Bioneers has been profoundly shaped and guided by the knowledge and worldviews of Indigenous peoples, for which we are unspeakably grateful. Our work with First Peoples has been foundational and central, growing into our Native-led Indigeneity Program co-directed by Cara Romero and Alexis Bunten.

That’s why our Indigeneity Program took early action to support Native communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Since we began this endeavor, we’ve been blessed to be able to regrant over $165,000 from generous donors, who have helped us support the lives and health of hundreds of individuals, prioritizing elders and children. But the struggles of the pandemic are far from over.

To contribute to Bioneers’ work to strengthen the leadership of First Peoples, women, youth and diverse leaders, and to shift our course to an Earth-honoring and just future.

Learn more and donate now.

The Latest from

What We’re Tracking

  • From Transition US: “From What Is to What If” | Have a good story about something you’ve done to make the world a better place? You’re invited to share your stories of community, resilience, and regeneration now with a national network of activists and advocates just like you. Those who act by December 15th will be eligible to receive one of four $500 stipends to present a webinar and lead an action learning cohort next year through Transition US.
  • From CIIS Public Programs: The California Institute of Integral Studies, a nonprofit dedicated to personal and social transformation, is hosting their 2020 Winter season of virtual discussions and workshops around compassion, psychedelics, spirituality and more. Reserve your spot by registering today!
  • From Science magazine: “COVID-19 data on Native Americans is ‘a national disgrace.’ This scientist is fighting to be counted” | “If you eliminate us in the data, we no longer exist,” says Abigail Echo-Hawk, a citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and director of the Urban Indian Health Institute.
  • From Yes! Magazine: “The Most Effective Conservation Is Indigenous Land Management” | American conservationists have said and done terribly racist things over the years. Now is the opportunity to center justice.
  • From NPR: “How Native American Voters Have Affected Election Results” | NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly talks with Tara Benally, field director for Rural Utah Project, about how the Indigenous vote in Arizona has played a role in flipping the key swing state.

This article contains the content from the 11/20/2020 Bioneers Pulse newsletter. Sign up here to get the newsletter straight to your inbox!

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