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Decolonizing Thanksgiving: Decolonize Thanksgiving

Re-examining Thanksgiving in the US
This guide and resources are just a starting place.  Some of the information is not specific to Thanksgiving, though it can be a good jumping off point to talk about Native People of America.  Taking the time and research in order to teach without erasure and presenting truths about history and present day issues is important to decolonize our world today.  

Decolonizing Thanksgiving Resources

Thanksgiving informational resources


Decolonize Thanksgiving

By taking a decolonizing approach to teaching about Thanksgiving, teachers and families reject the myths of Thanksgiving and harmful stereotypes about Native peoples.


The Wampanoag Side of the First Thanksgiving Story

From the Native perspective: The true story of Thanksgiving

Too often the story of the 1621 Thanksgiving is told from the Pilgrims’ point of view, and when the Wampanoag, who partook in this feast too, are included, it is usually in a brief or distorted way. In search of the Native American perspective, we looked to Plymouth, where the official first Thanksgiving took place and where today the Wampanoag side of the story can be found.


A More Accurate Historical Thanksgiving -What Are You Celebrating?

Here is a more accurate historical Thanksgiving account.  Thanksgiving…oh that wonderful holiday in which we should give thanks.


Thanksgiving Information – Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month.  Combined with Thanksgiving, many people seek information about the origins and history of this beloved American holiday. This link has informational and lesson aids.


Activities or Discussion Guides


Thanksgiving Mourning

An activity for students to explore the perspectives of two Native American authors about the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday and then write journal entries.


8 Ways to Decolonize Thanksgiving

Stories told about the first Thanksgiving often perpetuate harmful stereotypes and racism. It is important to set the record straight, acknowledge Native Peoples, debunk myths, and show Native Americans as contemporary people with dynamic thriving cultures. November is National Native American Heritage Month and offers many opportunities to move past one-dimensional representations.  Thanksgiving is an opportinity to also go beyond the harmful “pilgrims and Indians” narrative and focus on common values:  generosity, gratitude, and community. 


American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving

Each November educators across the country teach their students about the First Thanksgiving, a quintessentially American holiday. They try to give students an accurate picture of what happened in Plymouth in 1621 and explain how that event fits into American history. Unfortunately, many teaching materials give an incomplete, if not inaccurate, portrayal of the first Thanksgiving, particularly of the event’s Native American participants.

Guide and activities for a range of age levels


Montana State School Educational Resources and lesson guides

The state of Montana has created a large log of lessons and informational links about Native Americans in their state specifically and across the US.  Lots of options to check out. 



Here Project Archaeology gathered a selection of teacher resources that support cultural, accurate, and inclusive understanding of the historical events surrounding the popular myth of the first Thanksgiving.

One Word Cut is a series that invites people from different groups to weigh in on one word--and their responses show us just how complicated and unique we all are.



This Cut invited Native Americans to respond to the word "Thanksgiving." These are their responses.


Official Site


Decolonizing Our Perspective

Native American Heritage Month

November is National American Indian Heritage Month The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans.


6 Ways to De-Stereotype Native American Heritage Month

From the start of football season to the Super Bowl, with Halloween and the great fairytale of Thanksgiving in between, this time of year is wrought with stereotypes of Native people. Thankfully, November is also National Native American Heritage Month and offers many opportunities to move past one-dimensional representations. Whether you’re in a first grade classroom like my daughter, cooking in the kitchen for a big feast, or just trying to broaden your perspective, here are six suggestions of how to de-stereotype Native American Heritage Month.


Zinn Education Project Teaching Tools

The Zinn Education Project promotes and supports the teaching of people’s history in classrooms across the country. For more than ten years, the Zinn Education Project has introduced students to a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula. With more than 110,000 people registered, and growing by more than 10,000 new registrants every year, the Zinn Education Project has become a leading resource for teachers and teacher educators. Lots of articles about a variety of topics from Native American past and present.


Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the Classroom with these Resources

Many states, cities, and local communities have opted to celebrate Native American history and culture in lieu of Columbus Day, and the trend is certainly growing. To help educators celebrate this new and inspiring holiday, here are some ideas for teaching about indigenous peoples as well as educational resources on the topic.


Pre-Columbian Native Peoples and Technology

The purpose of this lesson is for students to grapple with three separate definitions: primitive, civilized (civilization), and technology.  Students examine or re-examine their own definitions of these words and how these words define what they understand about Pre-Columbian native culture. The objective is to help students determine their own point of view.

Other Considerations

Problematic Phrases

This page is intended to provide you with an explanation for why phrases like "war whoop" or "off the reservation" or "like a bunch of wild Indians" or "low man on the totem pole" cause us at AICL to be critical of a book. If you said these phrases to me in conversation, they'd be what is called microaggressions.

All people use certain phrases without thinking. Our parents used them, and their parents used them... We hear them on television and in movies. We read them in books, too, but many of them reflect ignorance, bias, or stereotypical ideas. 

As time permits, I'll add the depth that I provide for "Off the reservation." Below "Off the reservation" are others, arranged alphabetically. They include

"bury the hatchet"
"circle the wagons"
"happy hunting grounds"
"hold down the fort"
"indian giver"
"low man on the totem pole"
"on the warpath"

Source: AICL "Problematic Phrases"