Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Thanksgiving offers a way forward


November 23, 2021

Thanksgiving has rolled around once again. Conveniently, November is also national Native American History Month, a time when Americans turn their famously short attention spans to celebrate the Indigenous peoples of this nation. This would be the perfect time to teach youngsters about contemporary American Indians and the interesting and exciting work many tribes are doing to preserve and revitalize their languages and cultures.

In southern Ohio, my neck of the woods, however, the celebration of Indigenous culture takes the form of pre-schoolers dressing up as pilgrims and American Indians. They make wide brimmed black hats and headdresses out of construction paper, decorating the headdresses with fake-colored feathers, and sit down for some version of the first Thanksgiving meal eaten by the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims in 1621. This is the season when school children learn about the Indians who “used to” live here “long ago.”

I saw the first pictures of these events in my local newspaper Monday and, as usual, winced and wondered what the community reaction would be if children dressed up as enslaved peoples or African tribal folks to recognize Black History Month. Thankfully, however, the years have taken the edge off my irritation with such things; I write today about my hope for Thanksgiving and what it could mean for all of us.


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