As we reckon with the whitewashed versions of American history we have been taught, it is essential to assist your youngsters of all ages perceive the true meaning behind a number of the holidays we rejoice, akin to Thanksgiving. And it is unimaginable to talk about Thanksgiving with out mentioning Native American Heritage Day, a civil vacation acknowledged the Friday following Thanksgiving as a day to honor the various contributions of Native peoples throughout the US, as Native/Indigenous tradition specialists inform Scary Mommy.
In case you’re hoping to honor the various Native/Indigenous folks within the U.S. in opposition to the commercialized lens of Thanksgiving, hold studying for tactics to maintain your dialogue truthful, culturally respectful, and enlightening, whether or not you have acquired littles, teenagers, or kiddos in between.
What’s Native American Heritage Day?
Whereas it is likely to be new to you, the celebration is lengthy overdue for the generations of Native/Indigenous Individuals who’ve been preventing to have their roots, cultures, traditions, and heritage honored. First signed into law in 2008, President Obama signed “The Native American Heritage Day Decision” in 2009, publicly recognizing the day for the primary time, as Jamie Schulze (Northern Cheyenne/Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate), performing director for Southwest Affiliation of American Indian Artwork’s (SWAIA), tells Scary Mommy.
The celebration stands in stark distinction to the commercialization of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, as Lauren Driscoll (Ren), a Michigan FoodCorps service member who works with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and different Indigenous communities, explains.
“As many Native of us see Thanksgiving day itself as a Nationwide Day of Mourning, the vacation offers each Natives and non-Natives with a day to pay tribute to Native historical past, tradition, land, and rather more,” says Driscoll. “That is additionally a typical time that Native communities rejoice the harvest season, and thus a time for thanksgiving and celebration. With comparable targets of celebrating and honoring Indigenous peoples and historical past, Native American Heritage Month has been celebrated each November since 1990.”
Driscoll mentions one essential caveat, noting that “not each individual is a fan of Native American Heritage Day being the day after Thanksgiving — set on ‘Black Friday,’ today of greed and capitalism straight contradicts the beliefs, cultures, and traditions of many Native communities, and is ignored by information tales of gross sales, crowds, and buying.”
Serving to Your Youngster Perceive
No matter your kids’s ages, “It is essential to acknowledge that the widespread story of Thanksgiving is a fable that perpetuates dangerous stereotypes and overlooks the maltreatment and violence of Native folks by the hands of the English colonizers, or Pilgrims,” says Driscoll. “Children can perceive equity and justice very properly. Relying on the age of the kid, you may then clarify that English colonizers intruded on Native American land and proclaimed it as theirs regardless of hundreds of years of Native peoples dwelling there, mocked Native of us for a way they grew meals, stole their stockpiles of meals and ate it for themselves, introduced illness from Europe that Native folks had by no means encountered (sickening and killing their communities), and even took Native kids and adults from households to enslave them within the worldwide slave commerce.”
“An important half for youths to acknowledge is that the First Individuals — the Native communities — had been right here first, have been right here for hundreds of years, and have been handled with disdain and violence since first intrusion by the English,” she provides. “Allow them to know that the generally instructed story of Pilgrims and Natives consuming a pleasant meal collectively overlooks the theft of land, lack of tradition, and genocide by the hands of the English, and never solely would not inform the entire story however is not instructed from the angle of Native folks. Whereas youthful kids could not perceive the true historical past of Thanksgiving, they’ll perceive the Native communities that had been right here first — the Wampanoag individuals who saved the lives of the Pilgrims — they usually can perceive the unfair remedy Native peoples proceed to expertise. They’ll perceive the meals that was eaten by Native folks throughout that point, to be glad about the meals we eat, our household, and the land we’re on, and to deal with our lands and meals methods with the identical respect, care, and sense of sustainability that Native of us have at all times stewarded.”
In case your youngster is confused as to why Individuals proceed to rejoice Thanksgiving regardless of its darkish historical past, Driscoll suggests shifting the angle of your individual household celebrations. “To honor the harvest season, to spend time with household, to point out gratitude, to honor the land we’re on, to rejoice the Indigenous folks and historical past that led to us with the ability to have a meal collectively. The truth that Native communities are nonetheless standing robust is a gigantic act of resilience and energy, and it is essential to acknowledge their survival and power regardless of years of violence and continued discrimination at the moment.”
You additionally do not need to make youngsters really feel like they’ve completed one thing unhealthy or flawed, provides Yatibaey Evans (Ahtna, Athabascan Alaska Native), inventive producer of PBS Kids’ Molly of Denali. “I believe this comes from a concern that the reality or sharing the views or injustices of others will someway disgrace youngsters,” she shares. “The ideas behind the vacation — pausing to present thanks and be glad about what you could have, sharing with others, and honoring traditions — usually are not unhealthy and essential to share with youngsters.”
Addressing Misconceptions and Stereotypes
Since some faculties neglect to color an entire image of Native historical past, your youngster may need questions on stereotypes and mistruths, notes Schulze. She factors out that “Native Individuals and non-Natives are very a lot the identical. Native American college students go to highschool and try to study comparable issues.”
Provides Driscoll: “An enormous false impression is that Native of us solely dwell in our historical past books and up to now — there are nonetheless loads of acknowledged and unrecognized tribes at the moment that proceed to rejoice their historical past, tradition, foodways, traditions, languages, religions, and rather more. Indigenous communities maintain a various, detailed, and extraordinary information about agriculture, science, our pure world, sustainably stewarding land, politics, well being and medication, and a lot extra. Indigenous information and science ought to be upheld and taught simply as a lot as Western science and training. Native information tends to be regarded down upon or not seen as equally essential as different information, nevertheless it’s important we do not proceed this false impression of ‘lower than.'”
How one can Honor the Day Collectively
“There are numerous ways in which households can honor Native folks on Thanksgiving, Native American Heritage Day, and past,” notes Driscoll. “A great place to begin is being educated concerning the land you are on — this website helps you discover out what Indigenous Nations, tribes, and treaties exist on the land you reside on, work on, and go to highschool on. Take time to analysis the Native folks and historical past of your space, the languages spoken, and any present festivals, artwork exhibits, museum exhibitions, or different types of training you may interact with.”
Driscoll’s favourite technique to honor Indigenous communities is to cook and eat decolonized dishes utilizing recipes from Indigenous cooks. This cookbook is a superb place to begin. “Make your meals utilizing meals grown regionally to you and from farms and companies that equitably look after the land, their workers, and their communities,” she provides.
“You can too learn books by Indigenous authors, assist Native-owned businesses and organizations, and take heed to Native music,” says Driscoll. “For youthful youngsters, I extremely suggest Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story by Danielle Greendeer, which is written by a Wampanoag girl. As a household, you may learn the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address Greetings to the Natural World. The e book Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults by Monique Grey Smith has an incredible part on Thanksgiving and is accessible for all ages of readers.”
Driscoll continues, “In school, ask your youngsters’ lecturers how they educate about Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month, request that they educate traditionally correct info, and ask them to supply info to college students concerning the Fatherland they’re studying on and to debate the historical past of Indigenous peoples, tribes, and Nations in your space and past.”
Evans sums it up completely, recommending that households “keep in mind that respect and understanding of Indigenous tradition mustn’t start and finish in November — it ought to be one thing that ought to be understood and celebrated all yr spherical.”