Let’s talk about Thanksgiving in a way that captures the spirit of the holiday and is truthful about its history and the experience of Indigenous people in our country.

Thanksgiving is a time to focus on gratitude and our relationships with people and the land in which we live. You can encourage intentional gratitude by having kids say, write about, or draw things they are thankful for. You and the rest of the grownups in your family can do the same. This time of year is an opportunity to learn and discover the truth about Thanksgiving together. What can you do with your Bright Littles this holiday?

  • Find out which Indigenous groups lived (and may still live) in your area and learn about them. Reach out to your local tribes for resources.
  • Learn about the history of the Wampanoag nations and the lives of the Wampanoag people who still live in New England today.
  • November is American Indian and Alaskan Native Heritage Month. Look for events and resources throughout the month to keep learning!
  • Two great resources to start with are the Native Knowledge 360° Education Initiative and this list of books drawn from those recommended by Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children's Literature.
  • Talk about the importance of expressing gratitude. Gratitude can help you focus on what you have instead of what you feel you might not have. When your mind focuses on all you are thankful for, you’re more likely to feel joy.
  • Write it down. Research has found when you write down things you’re grateful for, that simple act can foster happiness and wellbeing. One reason this works is that it causes you to pause, focus, reflect and reinforce your positive experiences.

Here are some points to guide a conversation. This is a complex topic, so do some reading on your own first, if you need to!

  • To start the conversation, ask kids what they know or have learned about the story of Thanksgiving.
  • Help them understand that the story of Thanksgiving is more complicated than how it is often told or shown in pictures.
  • The story is about English settlers and Wampanoag people having a meal together in 1621 to celebrate the harvest, but often the whole story isn’t told.
  • The Wampanoag people were one of the many nations of Indigenous people living here a very long time before settlers arrived.
  • The Wampanoag people shared their land, food, and knowledge with the English settlers. Without their generosity, the settlers would not have had the successful harvest that led to what many people call the first Thanksgiving.
  • Unfortunately, the settlers did not treat the Wampanoag and other Indigenous people with respect and dignity. The settlers forced the Indigenous people off their land and took other resources as well. Often this history is not included as part of the Thanksgiving story, and so it is important for us to learn and share it.
  • Giving gratitude daily was an important part of Indigenous cultures before Thanksgiving was named a holiday.
Thanksgiving is a good time to be grateful for many things. And as we enjoy our meal or celebration in whatever form it takes, we can also build our awareness of our history and what we can learn from others, especially the people who were on this land long before us.