With Thanksgiving approaching, positive affirmations of gratitude and stories told around the dinner table are to be expected for a holiday practiced in Western culture. However, there are always two sides to a story, the story of Thanksgiving itself included. The often overlooked side of this story deserves to be told and receive gratitude of its own, as well as the honor of November being Native American Heritage Month.
This is a story of a double meaning for Thanksgiving. In the United States, we are aware of the holiday to celebrate the pioneers discovering the New World over four centuries ago. For some Native American Tribes, Thanksgiving is the National Day of Mourning and protest, according to Native Hope.
The United American Indians of New England Organization further explains the reason for protest: “Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.”
According to Native Hope, Native people celebrated the autumn harvest and Mother Earth’s abundance before settlers arrived at their land. Although Thanksgiving is not still commonly practiced as a holiday for Native Americans, it continues to be practiced as a way of life through its culture enriched in history, heritage, spirituality and art.
To shed light on the Native tribes close to home, there are Omaha people, Pawnee people and Ponca people. To appreciate and gratify Native art, visit the Joslyn Art Museum’s Native American collection that contains a glimpse of the past, present and future of Native people.
For precautionary measures due to COVID, the Joslyn Art Museum is doing timed and ticketed tickets. However, the tickets are still free. Masks are required and the experience is completely touch free. The link to reserve the advanced ticket for admission can be found on their website at joslyn.org.
Certain exhibits are not open for viewing and can also be found listed on their website. Museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and closed on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday evenings and major holidays, Thanksgiving included, so immerse into Native culture before Nov. 26.
Another way to immerse into Native culture is to visit the Indigenous Student Center located on campus in the Milo Bail Student Center and to get involved with the Intertribal Student Council (ITSC). The Indigenous Student Center’s goal is to support and encourage Native American students to pursue a college education at UNO. The ITSC’s purpose is to form a community.
According to their website, “The purpose of ITSC is to be available to all UNO students, and promote inter-tribal unity, academic support, professional development, and an awareness of Native American/Indigenous students, cultures, and issues off and on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO).”
To engage in this community, contact the president Alex Flanders via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or the vice president Courtney Foster at email@example.com.
Although a double meaning is defined within the holiday of Thanksgiving, allow the original philosophy of Native people to enrich your own Thanksgiving this year with family and friends.
“Give without expecting anything in return.”