Celebrating Thanksgiving through Gratitude and Generosity

   By Joshua Arce

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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