Celebrating Thanksgiving through Gratitude and Generosity

When the colonists faced bitter cold, illness and hunger in an unfamiliar land with few resources for survival, the Native Americans gave them life-saving help. Their generosity brought forth a bountiful harvest more than 400 years ago that served as inspiration for the modern interpretation of what Thanksgiving represents. However, the colonists’ gratitude toward Native Americans was short-lived and the Native Americans continue to face the resulting challenges, even today.

Historically, Native Americans relied on the abundance of Mother Earth to nurture their communities. Now, though, there is typically little fresh or healthy food available to Native Americans who live on the remote reservations established by the U.S. government during the Westward expansion.

With limited grocery stores, the food choices are wanting – even on Thanksgiving. This, complemented by the staggering unemployment rates and limited transportation within tribal communities, leaves fewer opportunities for prosperity than for the descendants of America’s early settlers.

For 30 years, Partnership With Native Americans has worked to ensure Native American communities are not forgotten about, even when the rest of the nation is celebrating Thanksgiving. We collaborate with tribal partners through our Northern Plains Reservation Aid and Southwest Reservation Aid programs each year to offer healthy Thanksgiving meals to those most in need.

While our Native partners on the reservations have had to adjust their distribution methods for 2020 to comply with COVID-19 safety guidelines, they are still dedicated to providing Thanksgiving meals to Native Elders, children and families. We are supporting the distribution of family meal bags that Elders can prepare at home with their families, in addition to a limited number of socially-distanced, congregate meals for community members. This year,  despite the challenges brought forth with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are grateful the pandemic has raised critical awareness of the realities of life across Indian Country. In the past, mainstream media often did not cover the significant impacts of an emergency on a reservation community. This year, we’ve seen an increased understanding from the media and general public relative to what it means to live remotely – oftentimes with limited food, water and connectivity.

As we continue to recognize American Indian Heritage Month, we hope that you will encourage your family to remember Native Americans as you come together – in person or digitally – to celebrate what you are most grateful for this Thanksgiving.

Here are a few ways you can celebrate Native Americans this Thanksgiving:

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