This is based on the Rethinking “Thanksgiving” Toolkit developed by the Indigenous Solidarity Network, which was created originally for white people to think more clearly about settler colonialism. You can find the toolkit in its entirety here.
Thanksgiving is a time of gathering together in the United States for many people; a time of family, friends, food, and fellowship. For some it is also a time of loneliness, a time when the lack of family connections, lack of resources, and lack of housing, and basic necessities becomes even more painful. And for some, for those who seek to honor the Indigenous people of Turtle Island, of Aztlan, it is also know as the National Day of Mourning.
Thanksgiving as it has been celebrated has had a long history of whitewashing genocide and has included vast amounts of disrespect for Native peoples, and a large amount of cultural appropriation. The Indigenous Solidarity Network, started by the group for white solidarity, Standing Up For Racial Justice, or SURJ, has a series of reflection points which are shared here. In the midst of the holiday season, let’s all make a point to take time to honor the real history of this land, the real struggles of Indigenous people, and mourn the losses while we orient ourselves to how we can be in solidarity and struggle for justice.
ADDRESS FOUNDATIONAL MYTHS BEHIND THANKSGIVING
Be clear about the real origins of Thanksgiving, and the lies about its origins. While children are taught myths about Pilgrims and “Indians” eating a big meal together, the reality is that is a whitewashing of genocide.
KNOW WHOSE LAND YOU ARE ON
Be clear about the fact that we are all immigrants — or colonizer descendants — in America if we are not Native American. Know whose territory you are in. There is an excellent resource for this here.
KNOW WHERE YOUR WATER, HEAT, ELECTRICITY & OTHER RESOURCES COME FROM
Be clear about the impact of taking resources from the land, land that has been occupied and colonized. As the toolkit states, “Colonialism is the root of climate chaos – which is now threatening the future of all people.”
KNOW YOUR FAMILY’S HISTORY
If you are white, and live in the U.S., be clear about the real story behind your family history. Take the time to understand your family’s relationship to the land on which you live. Many of us want to have a good picture of our family history, but the reality is that now 98% of land in the United States is owned by white people, and it is occupied land.
CHALLENGE CULTURAL APPROPRIATION
Be clear about the devastating consequences of colonialism and do what you can to resist and prevent the ongoing theft of culture and cultural space from Indigenous people. As the toolkit quotes: “The Red Nation writes in their 10 point program: ‘These appropriations contribute to the ongoing erasure of Native peoples and seek to minimize the harsh realities and histories of colonization. These appropriations are crimes against history.’”
UNDERSTAND WHAT CHRISTIANITY HAS TO DO WITH JUSTIFYING LAND THEFT
Be clear that the settler colonialism that has destroyed the planet has been given religious justification.
ENGAGE IN LOCAL STRUGGLES AND BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
Be clear that action is necessary, and it should be done with humility and in a spirit of following the lead and guidance of Indigenous people.
WORK FOR REPATRIATIONS OF LAND AND INDIGENOUS SOVEREIGNTY
Be clear that there is a real goal of repatriation of land and restoral of Indigenous sovereignty and work to support and actualize these goals, following the lead and direction of Indigenous people.
The entire toolkit is a must read for anyone who wishes to take seriously the consequences of settler colonialism for non-Native people in the United States. It is too long to include here in its entirety, and should be visited directly on the web.
May Allah forgive my mistakes and overlook my shortcomings in my annotation of the toolkit, and may the struggle of Indigenous people now and in the future be granted tawfiq. In solidarity, from Unceded Occupied Ohlone Territory.
To learn, more register for the webinar to be held on November 26.
ABOUT THIS TOOLKIT
Visit showingupforracialjustice.org/indigenous-solidarity to find a copy of this toolkit, our holiday hotline, and other resources.
INDIGENOUS SOLIDARITY NETWORK
The Indigenous Solidarity Network initially grew out of SURJ, Catalyst and other folks work at Standing Rock and following ongoing solidarity efforts with Standing Rock fighting the DAPL pipeline and to protect the water. It has since become a network to share resources, and actions for non-native people to be in solidarity with indigenous struggles. We host quarterly video calls, send e-mail updates, and action alerts. Join the email list to keep updated by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Indigenous Solidarity Network members: Berkley Carnine, Dylan Cooke, Scott Davis, Roger Drew, Z! Haukeness, Griffen Jeffries
We would like to thank the individuals to whom we are accountable and provided constructive feedback in the crafting of this toolkit: Betty Lyons – Onondaga Nation, Barb Munson – Oneida, Chasity Salvador – Acoma Pueblo, Corrine Sanchez – San Ildefonso Pueblo, Tara Trudell – Santee Sioux/Rarámuri.
Sarah is a social worker in the San Francisco Bay Area with at-risk and homeless youth. She likes to paint, drum, sing, and spend quality time with her family and God.