Every year on Thanksgiving, we get together with our families; we eat a lot of food, we talk with our uncles about politics, we laugh, and we have our family traditions. This Thanksgiving we encourage you to make a new family tradition, and it’s something easy you can do with your family.
We learned in school that Thanksgiving is a commemoration of a happy feast between pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe. Although as adults, we also know that the first Thanksgiving feast was more complicated, and not actually an example of normal interactions and relationships between the pilgrims and Indigenous people, but rather an extraordinary circumstance. The norm was much more brutal—between 1492 to 1600 about 55 million indigenous died. Although some of us might view Thanksgiving as a celebratory event, some of us might be mourning. This is why it is important to acknowledge the mass genocide of the Indigenous people and the truth of Thanksgiving.
In light of this reality, a new tradition many of our families have implemented during our Thanksgiving holidays is a simple acknowledgment of the stolen land we live and work on prior to our meals. If you want to try this, use this great website to learn on which Indigenous land you live. The website can show you which tribal nation territories you live in, the languages those tribes speak, and the treaties signed. It also gives you an idea of how many times the US Federal Government has failed the Indigenous people.
Utah is home to eight different tribal nations: Northwestern Band of Shoshone Nation, Confederated Tribes of Goshute, Skull Valley Band of Goshute, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Navajo Nation. According to the 2021 Census, about 1.6% of Utah’s population is Native American. You can learn more about the Utah tribal nations and their history here.
Last year, the Deseret News published a great op-ed from Brenda Beyal and Heather Sundahl about truths Americans should understand in order to honor and remember Indigenous people in their Thanksgiving traditions. By understanding these truths, we as Americans, and especially those who are white Americans, can truly understand why Thanksgiving is much more than eating a turkey.
After reading and learning about the tribal nation land you reside on, we encourage you to share this knowledge within your family, the people around your Thanksgiving table, and on social media. When we talk about it, we encourage others to learn about and share their acknowledgment of the land they reside on.
The Utah that we all envision—a Utah that is kind, inclusive, and where everyone can live healthy, happy lives—depends on us acknowledging the truth of our history, and doing our part to create a better future.