The Month of the Freezing Moon (November) is Native American Heritage Month

Nov 03, 2023

In 1990, November was set aside as Native American Heritage Month. While many families sit down to a piping hot turkey dinner, Native people observe traditional harvest ceremonies. Some might volunteer at a community meal, while others are fasting for the day.

For the over 600 tribal nations in America, the severity of genocide, historical trauma, and colonization taught us a fundamental lesson: take nothing for granted. This lesson is essential to our everyday survival.

The many myths that surround the Thanksgiving holiday are often painful and can also be triggering for some Native people. In fact, many Native people refer to Thanksgiving as the National Day of Mourning.

We grieve for our ancestral lands, our elders living in substandard housing, and our precious missing women, men, and children. Historical events of record are sometimes stunning: the story of the Taino Natives who found the lost and starving mariner Columbus and brought him back to good health; the stories of men and women who were captured, kidnapped and sold into slavery for their kindness; or the story of that “first thanksgiving” declared by Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop after 700 Pequot people were murdered at Mystic Fort. These are only a few of the stories.

Understandably, Native people have an ambivalent relationship with Thanksgiving. Still, my holiday message to you is this: commit an act of kindness in some understated way.

You could visit a neighbor with a pumpkin pie, shovel someone’s sidewalk without telling them, offer your arm to an elder, make an anonymous donation to a winter clothing drive, or buy your thanksgiving fixings from Native growers in your area.

This month, share this country’s true stories, remind others of the cultural practices of Native people, and be inclusive in your language. Learn how to say “I’m thankful” in languages like Somalian, Ojibwe, or Laotian. Your shared struggle with new words and new stories can be a humbling experience.

During this month of the Freezing Moon, use your warm and generous heart to begin to create a new history.

Happy Thanksgiving!