American Indian Resources

Frequently Asked Questions - Thanksgiving

Question: How is Thanksgiving experienced from a Native Person’s Perspective?

Utah Persective:

Native Americans will also gather for thanksgiving, but perhaps for a different reason
For many Utahns, Thanksgiving reminds us of the scene in 1621 when the pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe put aside their differences and gathered peacefully, but the holiday means something else for Native Americans.  News story from KSL TV on Nov 23, 2021

National Perspective: 

Native Knowledge 360: Native Perspectives on Thanksgiving
Many people teach about Native Americans in the fall, especially around Thanksgiving. If you teach about the “First Thanksgiving,” try to be as tribally specific as possible and present the history accurately.

Giving thanks is a longstanding and central tradition among most Native groups that is still practiced today. Learn about different thanksgiving traditions among Native people. We also encourage you to teach about the vibrancy of Native cultures through Native American art, literature, and foods while you celebrate Thanksgiving.


In the Classroom:

How can we teach and talk about Thanksgiving appropriately?
Here are three ways you can create a more accurate narrative around the celebration of Thanksgiving:

  1. 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.

Did you have an experience with a Thanksgiving or other reenactment that made you feel uncomfortable?

What should teachers know about non-Native students wearing the regalia of Indigenous Peoples as costumes?

  1. 1621 A New Look at Thanksgiving 1621
    A New Look at Thanksgiving provides us with a more accurate understanding of the historical events that surround the popular narrative of the first Thanksgiving. Students who engage with this text will be exposed to a more inclusive look at history and gain insight into how some of the common themes and issues associated with Thanksgiving have no factual historical basis but were invented or made up over the years. The authors state the following: "Taking a new look at Thanksgiving means putting aside the myth. It means taking a new look at history. It means questioning what we know. It means recovering lost voices – the voices of the Wampanoag people."

  2. Teaching Thanksgiving in a Socially Responsible Way | Learning for Justice
    As you discuss Thanksgiving with students, we hope you’ll reflect and use these resources to guide them to a more comprehensive understanding. It’s critical to address the truth and violence surrounding the day while also ensuring your students feel safe and prepared. It’s also critical to uplift the voices of Indigenous people, many of whom mourn the day and the pain that accompanies it.


More Ideas:
  • Re-Thinking Thanksgiving
    A blog written by BYU Arts Partnership, NACI Program Coordinators Brenda Beyal and Emily Soderborg, to learn how we can celebrate without appropriating or being insensitive.


Ferris, Jean Leon Gerome, Artist. The first Thanksgiving/ J.L.G. Ferris. Massachusetts, ca. 1932. Cleveland, Ohio: The Foundation Press, Inc. Photograph. Library of Congress

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