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Lewis D. Ferebee, chancellor of the Washington, D.C., public schools, sent a letter to the DCPS community encouraging parents and children to “decolonize” Thanksgiving, a holiday which he said brings up “horrors.”
After expressing his gratitude for the community and encouraging families to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Ferebee included a message entitled “Recognizing the History of the Holiday.”
“Thanksgiving is a day that can be difficult for many to celebrate as we reflect on the history of the holiday and the horrors inflicted on our indigenous populations,” the chancellor wrote. “If you celebrate, our Equity team has shared resources for how you can consider decolonizing your Thanksgiving” (emphasis original).
“If you host a Thanksgiving meal, consider doing a land acknowledgement,” Ferebee wrote. In that message, he linked to the Native Governance Center, a non-profit dedicated to assisting “Native nations.” The land acknowledgment web page to which Ferebee linked encourages people to “Use appropriate language. Don’t sugarcoat the past. Use terms like genocide, ethnic cleansing, stolen land, and forced removal to reflect actions taken by colonizers” (emphasis original).
One of the articles he shared, from a site called Bioneers, claims that “what we learn in school about Thanksgiving internalizes oppression.”
“By reaching children at an age when their brains and ideas are still forming, we normalize the idea that America is a European-descendant, Christian country above all,” the article claims. “Children of different ethnic and religious backgrounds implicitly learn that their roots are not a part of the American story.”
The article suggests that Americans should tell “the real story of Thanksgiving,” serve locally-sourced food, and “address oppression by widening your circle.”
The other article, from a site called Cultural Survival, warns that “stories told about the first Thanksgiving often perpetuate harmful stereotypes and racism.”
The article urges Americans to “learn the real history,” noting that “Thanksgiving, like Columbus Day, serves as a reminder of the genocide and violence Native communities experienced and continue to experience.”
The article also encourages Americans to eat Native American food, to “listen to indigenous voices,” to support a specific piece of legislation reversing a Trump-era policy, to support Native American artists, to buy Native products, to share positive depictions of Native Americans, and to “End Racist Native Mascots in Sports.”