Thanksgiving. The compound word strikes fear in my mortal heart. But this year, it’s not just the decision between cornbread or bread dressing. It’s not just dread over Uncle John’s belligerence at the table. And it’s not just the divide between the blue family and the red family.

This year, we have to do better by the indigenous peoples who were displaced and brutalized by the so-called-Pilgrims and following generations. We have to do better for the Native American generations today, still facing racial discrimination, still fighting for voice and land and rights, and we must do better to fight the widespread killings and disappearances of indigenous women and girls.

What can you do at your community Thanksgiving service to advocate for Native American causes?

  1. Learn more about native perspectives of that first Thanksgiving. Listen to an interview with Cedric Cromwell, Tribal Council Chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts. 
  2. Open your service with land acknowledgement. This map can help you learn who the indigenous people were who lived in your area. We do a land recognition most Sundays in worship, but they feel awkward at first. I usually say, “We are gathered today on the occupied territory of the Tutelo, Sappony, Catawba and the Keyauwee peoples who stewarded this land for generations.”
  3. Remind folks that colonialism brought great harm to these lands, in particular the erasure of both indigenous and African identities not under only slavery, but via racist laws that segregated all peoples into binary classification of “white” and “black”. 
  4. What about sharing a prayer for indigenous people? The United Church of Canada has some prayers. If your church shares communion, use a United Church of Canada indigenous Thanksgiving communion service.
  5. Find a way to support native interests. Encourage your representative to support The Save Oak Flat Act. Oak Flat is sacred land to the Apache people. The Progressive National Baptist Convention, in a resolution supporting the Apache Nation, writes, “Oak Flat is a place filled with power—a place where Native people go today for prayer, to conduct ceremonies such as Holy Ground and the Apache Puberty Rite Ceremony (often referred to as the Sunrise Dance) which celebrates a young woman’s coming of age, to gather medicines, ceremonial items, and to seek and obtain peace and a personal cleansing.” Find out more here.
  6. Finally, learn more about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. According to TeenVogue, “Native women are murdered at a rate of 10 times the national average, and four out of five Native women have experienced violence in their lives.” Read more here, here, and here.

Thanksgiving isn’t just about getting the history right, it’s about righting the history. Find a way to get involved in supporting Native American rights.

Rev. Lia Scholl is not-that-kind-of-Baptist preacher and pastor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (U.S.) and is the author of I Heart Sex Workers (Chalice Press, 2013).

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2 thoughts on “The Pastoral is Political: Getting Thanksgiving Right

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