How to make your Thanksgiving celebrations more inclusive

Nov 23, 2021, 6:28 PM | Updated: Nov 24, 2021, 5:44 pm
PHOTO: (KSL file)
(KSL file)

SALT LAKE CITY — For many Americans, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to recognize the Europeans that landed on North American shores and began exploring. But for Native Americans, the holiday focuses on the harvest and a celebration of thankfulness. 

Utah Division of Indian Affairs Director Dustin Jansen said these Thanksgiving traditions aren’t anything new for Indigenous people. 

“Prior to these people landing on our shores, many Indigenous communities were also agricultural communities who celebrated the fall harvest each year,” Jansen said.

Thanksgiving celebrated by Native Americans

One common thread that has carried over from earlier communities, is that different tribes all celebrate this harvest.

Currently, there are 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States and eight alone in the state of Utah. Utah also has nearly 200 state-recognized tribal groups.

How does the history of Thanksgiving translate to Indigenous people who may be celebrating?

“Many Native Americans in the community will celebrate Thanksgiving. It might not be based in the same settler-colonial spirit as most Americans have associated with Thanksgiving, but I haven’t been in any conversations where the word ‘mourning’ is used,” Jansen said.

Thanksgiving is a time to express gratitude

Above all else, Thanksgiving is a time to express gratitude toward all, no matter what beliefs you hold close. 

“Native people believe in a creator that blesses all, and we should express gratitude towards our friends, our families by blood, and families by choice. Thanksgiving is a time for a celebration of that, absolutely.” Jansen said. 

When asked how Americans could be more inclusive toward Indigenous people this holiday, Jansen said it’s important to acknowledge the stewardship of Native Americans who came before, especially as it concerns the land. 

“For Indigenous people, there is a spiritual tie to it all, and a responsibility to take care of the land,” he said. 

Other ways to be more inclusive this season? Always love your neighbors, even those who come from differing cultures.  

“I think that we can be better people to one another and express this through gratitude, not just by remembering the things we have, but acknowledging others who don’t have those things to celebrate. Hopefully they can reach out to others in need so that this holiday can be one of happiness,” Jansen said.

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How to make your Thanksgiving celebrations more inclusive