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Thanksgiving Then and Now

As we were conceiving this resource guide, hard questions came up about how we lift up this holiday while also acknowledging the painful history that led to its creation. The contemporary Thanksgiving holiday is rooted in the celebration of food, family, and giving thanks. As we celebrate, however, we have a responsibility to honor the true origin story and cast aside the false myth perpetuated in commercials, window decorations, and school plays.
The origin story of Thanksgiving is not the popularized narrative we all know, in which Europeans and First Nation peoples sat down at a shared meal and celebrated cooperation and brotherhood. We can’t give justice to the true telling of the history here, so we won’t try to. There are far better resources that you can link to on the right side of the page. We do however want to take a moment to acknowledge that the first Thanksgiving is one story in a larger history of genocide committed against First Nations peoples and the decimation of an indigenous food system.
As a result of contact and the supplanting of indigenous crops with those from other continents, we have lost countless varietals, animals, and traditions. But there are communities who are keeping alive and reviving their endangered, time-honored foods. On this holiday, take a moment to reflect on the story of the original Thanksgiving and give thanks to the people who are keeping the traditions of this continent’s First Nation alive.


Learn more about the original Thanksgiving
Gathering A Modern Thanksgiving Story
No Thanks to Thanksgiving
Debunking Pilgrim Myths [audio]
The Real Thanksgiving Story [video]
Teaching About Thanksgiving [for educators]

A handful of the many native-led projects to save endangered foods and traditions
Native Harvest
Navajo Churro Sheep presidia
Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center
Cultural Conservancy
New Mexico Acesquia Association
Tohono O’odham Community Action