Indigenous Peoples Month in November is not the only time to think about and appreciate the Indigenous peoples of the United States; this is just one of many occasions to highlight and recognize the true holiday story that people usually associate with this month: Thanksgiving.
Many people often associate November with Thanksgiving and all that people enjoy in their lives, but in 1990 President George HW Bush approved a resolution to make November a month to recognize Native American heritage across the country.
Kevin Abourezk, editor of Indianz.com, says that while November and Thanksgiving are a time for children to learn about Native people getting together with pilgrims, there is more to learn from this story.
“Children are often still taught that Thanksgiving is a celebration of the feast of 1621 between the Wampanoag and the English settlers and that the natives also celebrate this event,” said Abourezk. “I see no reason why children shouldn’t be told about the feast of 1621, but they should understand that the Natives don’t celebrate this feast like the settlers do. “
Colette Yellow Robe, a school retention specialist at TRIO and one of six co-leaders of the Journey for Anti-Racism and Racial Equity, said she was fortunate enough to grow up on a reserve.
“What I found to be the most striking feature is how sad people are not to know,” Yellow Robe said. “And they want to know more.”
People don’t know what they don’t know, she said. Yellow Robe said the passing of National Native American Heritage Month was something she felt so proud to see pass and that she was even more proud to see Indigenous Peoples Day begin in Nebraska.
“It can take a while just because the change can’t happen overnight,” Yellow Robe said. “But I always found us [Nebraskans] to try to make things right.
Yellow Robe says she remembers when the Nebraska Legislature passed Indigenous Peoples Day in 2020, there was some setback the day she testified at an event supporting the legislation.
Although she has seen people try to improve themselves, Yellow Robe said there are always ways to improve, especially by understanding Indigenous culture.
“People are making headdresses for the plains tribes for Thanksgiving history, just a very inappropriate cultural dehumanization going on,” she said.
Abourezk said that when it comes to better appreciating indigenous tribes and culture, people can research where they live and the history behind it.
“By learning which tribes once inhabited your home, you can begin to appreciate the centuries of violence and betrayal that forced most tribes out of their homeland and pushed them to remote, often desolate places,” Abourezk said.
Abourezk says he celebrates Thanksgiving as a time to recognize family and friends for whom he is grateful, but the traditional story of the Wampanoag and the pilgrims meeting together must also be seen along with the historical treatment of Indigenous peoples.
“For many natives, celebrating the feast of 1621 would be like Americans today celebrating the peace medals that Japan gave to four Americans before the attack on Pearl Harbor,” Abourezk said. “It would be honoring a singular act of reconciliation that has been followed, at least in our case, by centuries of broken treaties, stolen land, massacres and stolen children.
“It would be celebrating the worst betrayal in the history of this country in order to preserve America’s romanticized notion of itself.”