Last Updated on September 27, 2023 by Kimberlee Johnson
Many Native American communities across the United States gather together for Thanksgiving. But they need to gather around the dinner table for turkey and pumpkin pie, as many do.
So, what do Native Americans do on Thanksgiving? As someone fascinated by different cultures, I find time to research what Native Americans do during this holiday.
Today, I’ll explain how Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, highlighting their cultural practices and traditions.
What Do Native Americans Do During The Thanksgiving Holiday?
While customs can differ, many Native Americans use this occasion to strengthen family bonds. Families often come together to share a meal, where traditional dishes hold pride of place.
This time is more than just a feast; it’s an opportunity for prayer and exchanging stories from the rich history of Native American cultures.
“We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees.”– Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation
Through these gatherings, Native Americans honor their heritage, reaffirm their connection to their ancestors, and celebrate the enduring resilience of their communities.
What Do Native Americans Feel About The Thanksgiving Holiday?
Thanksgiving carries different emotions for many Native Americans. Instead of a time for celebration, it often evokes feelings of mourning and protest.
This is because Thanksgiving reminds them of the arrival of European settlers in North America, which marked the beginning of centuries of oppression, forced displacement, and genocide  against Indigenous peoples.
That’s why some use this day to raise awareness about these issues and advocate for Indigenous rights, turning the holiday into a platform for education and social change.
Find out if Muslims celebrate Thanksgiving here.
Why Don’t Some Native Americans Observe The Thanksgiving Holiday?
As mentioned, Thanksgiving is a painful reminder of historical injustices inflicted by early settlers, including oppression and genocide.
To honor this perspective, the United American Indians of New England changed the usual Thanksgiving meaning to National Day of Mourning.
With that, Native Americans and their supporters come together at Cole’s Hill in Plymouth for a solemn gathering and rally.
Instead of observing Thanksgiving as a time of celebration, they use this occasion to remember the hardships their ancestors endured and to raise awareness about the struggles faced by Indigenous communities.
What Foods Do Native Americans Consume On Thanksgiving?
Native Americans have a rich culinary heritage, and their Thanksgiving feasts reflect a blend of traditional and local ingredients like wild turkey, venison, and corn in their meals.
Historical accounts also mention the presence of lobster, fish, clams, oysters, eel , corn, squash, and maple syrup in their Thanksgiving dinner.
“Thanksgiving for Native Americans is not just a day on the calendar; it’s a living testament to the strength of our cultures and the importance of preserving our heritage.”– Howkapow Gift Site
These dishes showcase the diverse and abundant resources that Native Americans have relied upon for centuries.
How Do You Recognize Indigenous People On Thanksgiving?
1. Engage in Indigenous Traditions
Encourage your family to participate in Thanksgiving activities that honor Native American customs.
You can cook traditional indigenous dishes together or enjoy culturally relevant games and activities.
2. Recognize the National Day Of Mourning
For many Native Americans, Thanksgiving is a day of reflection and mourning rather than celebration. It’s crucial to understand and respect this perspective.
Take a moment to acknowledge the pain and suffering that Native American communities endured during European colonization.
3. Celebrate Native American Designers & Artists
Show your support for indigenous creativity by shopping from Native American-owned fashion brands and artists.
Brands like B.Yellowtail and designers like Curtis Oland offer unique and meaningful pieces that tell stories of indigenous culture.
By purchasing their creations, you celebrate their talent and contribute to preserving indigenous artistry.
4. Help Native Farmers
Try to shop locally and support Native American farmers. Seek out indigenous-owned businesses that offer fresh produce, artisanal goods, and unique beverages.
Platforms like AIANTA and Native Harvest Events can help you find local markets and businesses to support.
5. Provide Assistance to Native Communities
In times of need, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, providing direct support to indigenous communities is crucial.
Organizations like the Native Wellness Institute, First Nations COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, and Native American Heritage Association work tirelessly to address the healthcare, food security, and overall well-being of Native Americans.
If you want to make a positive difference in the lives of Indigenous people this Thanksgiving and beyond, you can donate to or volunteer with one of these groups.
Related Post: How Can You Say “Happy Thanksgiving” In German?
What do Native Americans prefer being called?
Many Native people now prefer to be called “American Indian” or “Indigenous American” as it better represents their identity and heritage.
It’s essential to respect individual preferences regarding terminology.
What is considered offensive in Native American culture?
In Native American culture, it is offensive to use clichés or stereotypes. Avoid calling men “Chief” in a funny way, as there are actual tribal chiefs, making this highly disrespectful.
And never refer to females as “Squaws,” as it is not an Indian word for women but a derogatory term coined by non-Indigenous people.
Is it okay to dress like a Native American for Thanksgiving?
No, it is never appropriate to dress up as a Native American for Thanksgiving or any other occasion. Such costumes are considered disrespectful and perpetuate harmful stereotypes.
Thinking about how Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s clear there are two sides to it. Some Native American families gather, share meals, and talk about their culture’s stories.
But for many, it’s a sad day because it reminds them of when newcomers came to America long ago and caused much harm.
This day makes them think about the difficult times they’ve been through.
Ultimately, this different experience highlights the importance of understanding the nature of
Thanksgiving for Native Americans acknowledging their resilience and ongoing struggles.
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