3 Ways to transform your Thanksgiving in ways that are culturally respectful to Indigenous People

Tiled Thanksgiving dinner image by Amy Shamblen - Unsplash

Thanksgiving is a collective opportunity to show gratitude, share food, and make meaning together through storytelling. But Thanksgiving is a problematic holiday built on deliberate lies and the ongoing genocide of millions of Indigenous people.

Here are some ideas from the Bioneers Indigeneity Program for how we can all transform and “Indigenize” Thanksgiving in ways that are culturally respectful to those who were here first.


1. Acknowledge First Peoples

Learn the name of the Native Peoples of the place you live, and acknowledge that you are in their ancestral territory. In your opening words to the Thanksgiving meal, you might make it a new tradition to say something like the following: “We are thankful to live on the Monterey Peninsula, the ancestral territory of the Rumsen Ohlone peoples.”

2. Eat Indigenous Foods

Serving foods indigenous to where you live can be a daunting research task. However, there are some foods that are indigenous to North America, such as turkey and “the 3 sisters” that you will probably be serving anyway. You can learn about the significance of the 3 sisters to Native Americans in this presentation by Kiowa chef, Lois Ellen Frank, given at the Bioneers Conference.

Knowing the cultural significance and meaning of these foods to place will increase your enjoyment, fulfillment and well-being connected to the Thanksgiving meal.

3. Learn Local History

Learn the real story of the place that you live. If you live in America, this inevitably means learning about the history of genocide and colonization. This information can be painful to learn, but it is critically important to know true history so that it cannot be repeated.


The information above is from Bioneers an innovative nonprofit organization that highlights breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet. Founded in 1990 in Santa Fe, New Mexico by social entrepreneurs Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons, they act as a fertile hub of social and scientific innovators with practical and visionary solutions for the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges.