Rethinking Thanksgiving 2022

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Breaking BarriersDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and for many, there will be a lot of discussion about how to mark this holiday. For the past few years, we’ve shared some resources and thoughts on why we should rethink Thanksgiving. This year, we have another opportunity to do just that: rethink what, how, and why we choose to celebrate this holiday. For many people, Thanksgiving 2021 was the first time that we were able to gather with family members, thanks to the availability of a COVID vaccine. This year, some of us may be wondering yet again whether or not it’s a good idea to gather in person with family and friends. Perhaps we’re choosing more often to celebrate with our chosen family than our given ones.

Thanksgiving has been a problematic holiday, and that’s especially true today when we think about the increasing violence and bigotry in this country and the world. This holiday is a reminder of genocide and colonization, and it’s difficult to reconcile that with the message of Thanksgiving – which is supposed to be about being grateful for what we have and who we spend time with. Some people argue that we should get rid of Thanksgiving altogether, but I think there’s potential for a different kind of Thanksgiving – one that celebrates our shared humanity instead of our differences. 

This Thanksgiving, let’s take the time to educate ourselves about the true history of Thanksgiving and think critically about how we can make this holiday more inclusive and reflective of our values. Here are some tips on how to celebrate inclusively and thoughtfully this year:

  1. Acknowledge and honor Native American communities. This can be done through learning about and supporting Indigenous-owned businesses, incorporating traditional Native dishes into the Thanksgiving meal, or even by sharing a “land acknowledgment” before your in-person or virtual gathering in order to name the prior (and sometimes current) inhabitants of the land we sit on. SGO uses Native Land as a resource to find out what tribal lands you might be living and working on. If you’re from or currently living in a country that does not have displaced indigenous populations, take this opportunity to reflect on the ongoing impacts of colonization.
  2. Be mindful of cultural appropriation. Avoid using stereotypical and oversimplified depictions of Thanksgiving, such as dressing up in a “Native American costume” (Native American culture is not a costume!) for school plays or decorating with items such as headdresses or teepees.
  3. Acknowledge that not everyone may have a positive relationship with Thanksgiving due to its history and problematic traditions. Many Native Americans view this day as a National Day of Mourning. Take time to listen and be respectful, and create a safe space for open and honest discussions about Thanksgiving’s complicated past.

So much of our work is about leaning into the complexities of multiple truths. Thanksgiving is a holiday about gratitude, and it’s a day that marks this country’s incredibly violent and genocidal past. This Thanksgiving, consider how you want to lean in and hold these truths up.