This piece was created for Native American Heritage month and Thanksgiving! It is not intended to erase Thanksgiving as a celebration of gratitude and family, but to ensure people know and honor the real story of how this holiday came to be.
The myth of Thanksgiving suggests that Native people and pilgrims came together to celebrate the survival of the Plymouth colony. There was a “First Thanksgiving” in 1621, but Native people were not invited. Stories told about the first Thanksgiving often perpetuate harmful stereotypes and erase the true history of the early encounters between Native communities and colonizers.
Native Americans are a contemporary and regal people with dynamic and thriving cultures that we all could learn a great deal from. Studying the true history of Thanksgiving is eye opening and humbling.
Headdresses, or warbonnets, I found, are only worn by a dozen or so tribes in the Great Plains region, such as the Sioux, Crow, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, and Plains Cree, and only then by those who have earned it, it should not be a costume.
I chose this sacred symbol of strength and bravery to show profound respect for Indigenous American cultures and in honor of those who continue to fight for peace and respect for their rich and remarkable traditions.
November is National Native American Heritage Month, offering many opportunities to move past one-dimensional representations of “pilgrims and Indians.” In the spirit of unity, let's instead focus Thanksgiving on common values: generosity, gratitude, and community. Wishing everyone a safe, warm, and reflective holiday!