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Decolonizing Thanksgiving for a Day of Gratitude (and what to do the day after)

The fourth Thursday in November is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. The myths of this as a day emerging from gratitude and happy fellowship between different cultures, stands in contrast to the realities of colonialism and genocide in the Americas. For many of us, this creates some complexities in celebrating the holiday. Yet by decolonizing Thanksgiving Day (and the following day, the whole weekend, and indeed the holiday season), we can honor this time in ways that are truly in keeping with agaya and ubuntu.

Ideas for Decolonizing Your Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day can also be an opportunity for powerful new celebrations among Novasutras practitioners. It can be a day devoted to gratitude for all of the bounty of this sacred Earth. It can be a day to acknowledge the debts owed to indigenous peoples and traditional, place-based wisdom. Feasts can celebrate the ways that the “Three Sisters” (corn, beans, and squash) illustrate ubuntu and indigenous wisdom.

How can decolonizing Thanksgiving lead to celebrations filled with gratitude, ubuntu and agaya?
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Here are some recommendations we’ve gleaned from Bioneers and YES! Magazine.

How to Decolonize Thanksgiving

“Join the movement to celebrate the real history of Thanksgiving, start conversations with your family and friends, and create new traditions.” Learn more

The True, Indigenous History of Thanksgiving

Read about the true story of what happened at the First Thanksgiving.  Learn about the effects it had on Indigenous lives. Bioneers’ Indigeneity Program’s Alexis Bunten (Aleut/Yup’ik) hosted a conversation with Chris Newell (Passamaquoddy), the Akomawt Educational Initiative’s Director of Education. Learn more

3 Ways to Decolonize Thanksgiving

“Bioneers Indigeneity Program is to provide public education around Native perspectives, we wrote this blog post to share some ideas for new traditions you can include at your Thanksgiving this year to better honor the Native Americans, immigrants, and their descendants who contribute to our country’s diversity.” Learn more

Photo by Crina Parasca via Unsplash

How to “Indigenize” Thanksgiving

Discover ways to “Indigenize” Thanksgiving in ways that are culturally respective of Native Americans. Improve on traditions by recognizing and acknowledging the relations between Native Americans, recent immigrants, and descendants of early settlers in your area. Learn more

What Are You Doing To Decolonize Thanksgiving This Year?

Become part of the movement to decolonize and change the meaning behind Thanksgiving. “Social change isn’t made overnight. We are the beginning of a movement. And I am confident that most Americans will celebrate a Decolonized Thanksgiving within a generation or two.” Learn more

What do Native Americans REALLY think of Thanksgiving?

“… we are going to take our conflicted feelings about Thanksgiving and Indigenize them with some Native humor. We are going to stay home with the same people we see way too much all-day, everyday, and laugh with Native comedians, Jackie Keliiaa and Dallas Goldtooth.”  Learn more

Indigenize Thanksgiving 2020 with Bioneers

Don’t Trash Thanksgiving. Decolonize It

“Ultimately, within our families and communities and schools, we should stop, reinterpret, and repurpose traditions that are harmful, either in theory or practice.” Learn more

Rethinking Black Friday

In the United States, the Friday after Thanksgiving has become a day of unbridled consumerism. We can chose to change our relationship to this day, by making it a day to go outdoors and enjoy Nature (#OptOutside), and/or a day to engage in Earth care, land defense or indigenous justice actions.

Black Friday Action in Solidarity with Indigenous Land Defenders

The Wet’suwet’en indigenous nation in British Columbia has called for solidarity actions across the world as they fight an illegal pipeline (Coastal GasLink) slated to cross their sovereign territories with funding, of course, primarily organized by CHASE Bank. The Novasutras Santa Cruz chapter invites locals to join us for a Black Friday action in Santa Cruz.


Wherever you are in the world, please do pause for a moment (or better yet, an hour or two) on this Thanksgiving Thursday, and consider all the amazing and wondrous things for which you can be grateful in this beautiful world. Appreciate the bounty of beautiful food. Celebrate and enjoy the day with ubuntu and agaya!

What are you grateful for? How do you celebrate ubuntu and agaya?

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