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  • Writer's pictureRegan Franklin


We are all important and contribute to society and community in different ways. That is why in more recent history there are many who struggle with the concept of Thanksgiving as the traditional holiday with which we are familiar. The story that we learned growing up, depicting Thanksgiving as a joyous coming together of Indigenous People and Pilgrims has played an awful game of Telephone over the last 400 years while we all made our Thanksgiving turkey hands and corn and feather decorations. I do not intend to get on my soapbox about Native American genocide, and the complex history of who actually played a key role in the Thanksgiving stories we all were taught and the horrible trickery that the Indigenous People of our great land endured. I do, however, want to offer an alternative way to look at the "holiday." Despite the truth behind the historical account, which in reality was more of a political plot, there are ways to celebrate the day in a way that honors the traditions of coming together with family and friends, as well as the rich food history and contributions Native Americans have made in food cultivation and farming techniques, not to mention art and literature benefices as well. Instead of a day of mourning as many from the Wampanoag Tribe view Thanksgiving or a day of false celebrations, let's celebrate Today and our current values, which are always changing as we continue to learn and grow. A growth mindset is just what Thanksgiving needs to revamp its true meaning - being thankful for who we are, what we have and the ability to see our mistakes and correct them. We can decolonize/indigenize Thanksgiving, and rejoice in what really matters, which is all of us.





What does decolonize/indigenize Thanksgiving mean? Simply, this means to actively abandon focus from the false narrative that we are accustomed to telling and sharing; we need to remember that diversity is the backbone of America and direct our attention to common values that enrich all individuals and the universe as a whole. So, how does one accomplish this? We can realize honoring the season and erasing the oppressive history of what we are all very aware of and have been suppressing all of our lives. We need to start by changing our habits around what we do and celebrate on Thanksgiving Day. There are many ways to do this and the deeper we explore the holiday and its meaning, the deeper we can dive into Native American life, and the impact Indigenous people had in the 1600s through today. Here are the top 5 ways to get started.

  1. Tell the real story of Thanksgiving from all perspectives. How do Native Americans view Thanksgiving? What really happened with the Pilgrims and the Dutch Settlers? How did Squanto (full name: Tisquantum) learn to speak English? What was the feast that was shared truly about? Was there a literal invitation by anyone to celebrate the harvest and wild foul, (which most likely was not turkey, by the way)? There are many resources on the subject to seek out and share what you learn as you gather this year. Download the Real Thanksgiving Story - Partnership With Native Americans (

  2. Learn about the land you are celebrating on or from where you are originally - Honor the land you are celebrating on and acknowledge the people that were indigenous to it. Official US Native Land Area Representations – Native Land Information System.

  3. Indigenize the day! Bring Native American dishes to the table. There is a culinary movement to honor Native American ancestors through dietary choices. The stories behind the food are just as delicious as the dishes. 9 Native American Dishes To Add To Your Thanksgiving Table | TravelAwaits

  4. Listen to Indigenous voices. The best way to honor someone is to really listen to them and hear what they are saying. Everyone's history matters: The Wampanoag Indian Thanksgiving story deserves to be known | Smithsonian Voices | National Museum of the American Indian Smithsonian Magazine

  5. Find new ways to celebrate Native Americans with children whose minds and brains are developing. Teach them the true stories when they're most likely to soak in the information. 10 Thanksgiving books for kids from the Native perspective (

These are great ways to begin changing your habits around Thanksgiving and we can feel good about what and how we are actually celebrating. Thus begins the growth mindset with respect to humanity, justice, temperance, transcendence, wisdom and courage (VIA classification of virtues).


Just above, I mentioned six categories of virtues as defined by the VIA Institute on Character. These categories are divided into 24 different character strengths that are indicators of what you stand for and what you believe and how you are guided through your journey. My strongest virtue is courage, and my strongest character strength is honesty. Authenticity, trustworthiness and sincerity are extremely important to me when forging relationships and communicating with people. This just begins to explain my passion for Native American truth, and why it is paramount at this time of year. Find out how your character strengths and virtues line up. You can register to take a survey here: Personality Test, Personality Assessment: VIA Survey | VIA Institute ( It's free and it in incredibly interesting to see how your virtues and strengths are ordered and explained. I find it very helpful in making decisions - I know what I value, and it's my values that guide my decision making.

I invite you this Thanksgiving to generously give back the history and culture of a significant historical time and its people to its rightful founders and at the same time, explore yourself. Find new meaning in a traditional holiday that does not need to be removed from the calendar - just reinhabited with truth, forgiveness, gratitude and creativity. I feel good about wishing people a Happy Thanksgiving. How do you feel?

Happy Thanksgiving/Values Day! Until next time, I'm here if you need me!

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