What do Native Americans REALLY think of Thanksgiving?

By Alexis Bunten 

Alexis Bunten, PhD., (Aleut/Yup’ik) has served as a manager, consultant and applied researcher for Indigenous, social and environmental programming for 20 years and is the Co-Director of the Indigeneity Program at Bioneers. 

Disclaimer from the Author: This blog only reflects my personal observations and experiences, and I write on behalf of myself. 

Thanksgiving is many things to Native Americans. Since I began decolonizing and Indigenizing Thanksgiving with my Bioneers family, I have shared the true history of Thanksgiving, and provided guidance for how and where to show up in solidarity with Native Peoples in my annual Thanksgiving blog

But this year, nobody is traveling for Thanksgiving. We are not getting together with extended family and friends. So, how do we continue to Indigenize Thanksgiving together, while staying socially distanced? 

This reflection has me thinking about how Native Peoples really feel about Thanksgiving. 

There is no such thing as a unified “Native American perspective” on Thanksgiving. We are diverse, and we have complex relationships with the holiday. That’s why I strive to “Indigenize Thanksgiving.” 

Many of us do not celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a time to think about stolen land, and genocide. We pray for millions of our ancestors who have been killed or died as part of the ongoing American colonization (some say occupation). We have also developed new traditions that take place on Thanksgiving, like the National Day of Mourning, which has taken place on Cole’s Hill, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, since 1970. 

But, many of us still do celebrate Thanksgiving. I grew up with it, as did nearly all my Native friends and family. But, I always felt bad about being bombarded with negative stereotypes throughout the holiday season. Most of us address the psychological pain through humor. 

So for this year, we are going to take our conflicted feelings about Thanksgiving and Indigenize them with some Native humor. We are going to stay home with the same people we see way too much all-day, everyday, and laugh with Native comedians, Jackie Keliiaa and Dallas Goldtooth. And we want to invite our entire Bioneers family to join us, to have a great, big, funny, and fun Thanksgiving together, from coast to coast. (I promise it will be much more fun than sitting around with too much food, or no holiday meal at all, reflecting on what you are grateful for in 2020.) 

There are two ways to join in the fun for Thanksgiving. You can watch the comedy show live stream on our Facebook Page starting at 5:30 pm PST, November 26, Thanksgiving Day. We’re only going to keep it up for 24 hours, so mark your calendars! 

OR, you can join the webinar live by registering here

Oh, and pssst. We have a little favor to ask you. If you can afford to, and want to be an awesome ally, please consider donating to this event

The proceeds will be split between our Native Youth Leadership Program and the comedians. Native artists have been especially struggling this year for obvious reasons (but in case it’s not obvious, read this). Let’s show Jackie and Dallas just how much we appreciate the good medicine they give to the world through their special talent. 

On behalf of the Bioneers Indigeneity Team, take good care of yourselves and we hope to see you this Thanksgiving! 


Alexis Celeste Bunten 

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