5 Things to do This Thanksgiving to Honor Indigenous Heritage


It’s the week of Thanksgiving…

…which has many of us wondering how, and if, we should still be participating in the holiday as it was presented to many of us (generally white Americans) as children. Collectively, we are becoming more knowledgeable now about the historical accuracy of the birth of Thanksgiving, as described by writer Scot Nakagawa as a “Conundrum of Cultural Racism” (for a more kid-friendly resource on the telling of the real story of Thanksgiving, check out Today’s post here).

But can this knowledge, which naturally brings up feelings of guilt and shame, be used as an opportunity to learn, grow, and give back? How do we embrace the “spirit” of the holiday– giving thanks, sharing meals with loved ones, and demonstrating deep gratitude for one another– while still honoring those who have been on this land since time immemorial? 

If celebrating Thanksgiving is on your agenda this week, we encourage you to spend some time, in addition to your beloved traditions, learning more about the Indigenous peoples who came before you on this land and still live as our neighbors and community members. For more information on The Environmental Center’s land acknowledgement and further resources specific to Central Oregon, check out our Land Acknowledgement page. The Environmental Center’s land acknowledgment was developed in partnership with local Indigenous community leaders and elders who were compensated for their time and expertise. We are grateful to each of them for sharing their history and stories.  

While there are many more ideas, actions and resources beyond this list, here are 5 locally curated things you can do with your family this Thanksgiving break to learn about and honor Indigenous Heritage.


1. Go to Warm Springs

Visit the Warms Spring Museum, then hop across the street to shop and support local artists at Tananáwit and buy some salmon candy at the Salmon King Fisheries.

2. Try a New Recipe

Include Indigenous chef ‘s recipes to your thanksgiving table this year. Recipes from Turtle Island, a collaboration between Indigenous chefs and Slow Food is a great intro to the many chefs out there revitalizing native foodways. The First Nations Development Institute has a collection of recipes as well. 

3. Support Food Sovereignty

Buy a Tribal Food Box – for you or for a tribal member. Sample locally made goods from Sakari Farms, and sample products like wild rice, chokecherry jelly and smoked salmon from other PNW tribal producers.

4. Read a Book

Deschutes Public Library has a curated list of elementary school age non fiction ebooks by and about Native Americans. This list includes We Are Grateful, Ancestor Approved, We Are Still Here and Finding My Dance. (There is also a curated list of book and websites for adults).

5. Stream a New Show

Molly of Denali & Spirit Rangers are native created shows for younger kids, on PBS and Netflix respectively. Reservation Dogs is available on Hulu for older family members, and BendFilm offers film archives of Indigenous shorts, many of which can be found online.

We wish you a restful, safe, and healthy holiday break, however you choose to celebrate or opt out. One thing that’s for certain is that we are very thankful here at The Environmental Center for you, our community, who join us in our work to embed sustainability into daily life here in Central Oregon.