The Thanksgiving holiday for many of us has been a time of celebration and giving thanks for what we have. I personally look forward to sharing a delicious, hearty meal with my loved ones on Thanksgiving Day. At the same time, I have learned so much about what Thanksgiving means for Indigenous and Native American communities—for many, it is a day of mourning and a reminder of the trauma and genocide their ancestors experienced, which continues to impact their lives today.
Is it okay for me and my loved ones to give thanks on what many Indigenous and Native American People consider to be a day of mourning? The answer is yes—and as a Girl Scout leader, I also commit to do the work of supporting Indigenous and Native American communities using Girl Scouts of Northern California’s Culture Code for Equity & Belonging:
I DISCOVER myself in a racist and unjust world, I CONNECT with my heart wide-open, and I TAKE ACTION to make the world a better place for all people. (Please see the Volunteer Policy for Building Equitable Community for All to view the full Culture Code).
DISCOVER American history and stories from the perspective of Indigenous voices.
November is Native American Heritage Month (also known as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month), which celebrates the histories, diverse cultures, and traditions of Native American people as well as acknowledges their contributions, hardships, and struggles throughout American history and in the present. This is also a great opportunity to actively listen to their stories and learn more about American history from Indigenous and Native American People’s perspectives (and honor their truths):
- Visit the Native American Heritage Month website
Read An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz and As a Native American, Here’s What I Want My Fellow Americans To Know About Thanksgiving by Corinne Oestreich
Watch We Still Live Here – “Âs Nutayuneân” by Anne Makepeace and Exterminate All the Brutes: Episode 2 by Raoul Peck
Listen to Cedric Cromwell, Tribal Council Chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts, message of Unity for Thanksgiving
- Check out these children book recommendations written by Native and Indigenous writers
CONNECT by acknowledging the land that you occupy and honor the Indigenous People that were harmed.
No matter where you live in the Americas, indigenous peoples were there before the rest of us were. Make land acknowledgement a part of your holiday meal when you give thanks. If you are unsure who originally lived and cared for the land you currently occupy, you can enter your address on native-land.ca and find out.
Connect even further by asking the girls in your troop if they would be willing to start off every Girl Scout troop meeting acknowledging the native land you are all meeting on. Land acknowledgements honor the past, and we can also honor the people that were harmed in order for us to live, work and play in our present by learning about Native American heritage and living traditions:
- Visit nativegov.org’s Guide to Indigenous Land Acknowledgement
- Watch Why Treaties Matter by NPR
- Learn about the Amah Mutsun Land Trust and Girl Scouts of Northern California’s collaboration with the Amah Mutsun to reintroduce native land management practices
- Choose activities from the Girl Scouts of River Valleys Native American Heritage Month Celebration Patch and A Story of Survival: The Wampanoag and the English Lesson Plan Booklet by the Oklahoma City Public Schools and Native American Student Services
- Plan a visit to the California Indian Museum & Cultural Center
TAKE ACTION by listening and learning about Indigenous communities’ ongoing struggles.
Learning about Native and Indigenous heritage, history, and land acknowledgements is just the beginning. In order to proactively support Native and Indigenous communities, we must center their voices and actively listen and learn about their ongoing struggles. Supporting Native American organizations who are advocating for Native Americans, such as the American Indian College Fund, is a great place to start. Buying from Native-owned businesses is also a great way to make a positive impact (and get some incredible holiday shopping done in the process!)
- Research local Native American organizations and resources and ask if there are any actions that your troop can advocate for and/or participate in
- Identify local organizations who are advocating against derogatory Native sports mascots that are being used in your community
- Visit culturalsurvival.org’s Abolishing Racist Native Mascots: A Toolkit for Change
- Follow Native and Indigenous social media influencers who are advocating for change in their communities and find out how you and your troop can support their work
However you plan to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, take the time to pause and reflect how you and your troop can support our Native and Indigenous American siblings, and keep the conversations going! By opening up conversations with your troop (even when it feels uncomfortable) about your own misconceptions about Native American People, introducing land acknowledgements, or discussing harmful derogatory Native sports mascots, we become part of the solution to make the world a better place for all people.
Herna Cruz-Louie—Herna is the Chief Organization & People Officer for the Girl Scouts of Northern California and is also the Co-Troop Leader for Girl Scout Troop 33433, a multi-level troop, in Oakland’s Chinatown. Herna oversees GSNorCal’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEIB) initiatives, Marketing & Communications, Human Resources & Organizational Effectiveness, and Member Success & Retail departments. She currently serves as the Board Chair for World Arts West (the producer of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival) and Board Secretary for Kulintang Arts, Inc. (the premiere presenter of tribal and contemporary Pilipino arts). Herna received her B.A. in Asian American Studies from San Francisco State University, her Masters in Human Resources Management from Golden Gate University, holds a Diversity & Inclusion certification from Cornell University, and is a certified Community Mediator. She is a cultural artist and instructor of Philippine folk instruments and dance, and is proudly raising her 2 daughters and chihuahua with her spouse in Oakland, CA.