In Peace Studies class, students have been learning about intersecting systems of oppression and organized resistance movements. One of our focuses is to debunk the creation myths of the United States Empire, which was founded on genocide and slavery. In projects class, students have been studying Native American rights, the impacts of continued colonization, and contemporary resistance movements centered on indigenous leadership. Earlier this semester, we attended an annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration in Nevada City organized by the Tsi Akim Maidu. As Thanksgiving approached, we organized a banner drop in Nevada City to shed light on the true history of Thanksgiving. While we deeply value family gatherings and giving thanks, we wanted to encourage fellow settlers to reflect upon the origins of this holiday and how it is a time of reflection and mourning for many. With consultation from some Native American friends, the students came up with the phrase: “Happy Thankstaking! Ask Native Americans what they think”
Despite pouring rain, spirits were high and students were full of passion and energy the day of the banner drop. We were met with many supportive honks. In addition to hanging the banner, students passed out the following article to passersby and local businesses: 6 Thanksgiving Myths, Share Them With Someone You Know by Vincent Schilling. In reflecting on the banner drop, students felt powerful taking action and felt it was something they could easily do on their own with a sheet, paint, scissors and a friend. In reflecting further on the message, we felt that “ask them” can be homogenizing and puts the burden on Native Americans to educate, and so we could have focused more on settler responsibility. We also asked the critical question of who are we accountable to in taking action and how do we build deeper relations with local indigenous organizations to center their leadership in any solidarity work.