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Indigenous mom calls to celebrate 'Truthsgiving' to acknowledge indigenous histories

Kelsey was inspired to post about "Truthsgiving" after speaking to her daughter last year when she returned home from kindergarten with a Thanksgiving-related homework assignment.

Cover Image Source: (L) Instagram/@ciugun (R) TikTok/@kelseyciugun
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A mother of two from Alaska is joining the growing number of outspoken Indigenous community members who want others to know that there is more to the Thanksgiving story of 1621 than many American schoolchildren are taught by sharing more awareness of indigenous culture in what she calls the truth about Thanksgiving, or "Truthsgiving." The mother of two, Kelsey Ciugun Wallace said she was inspired to post about "Truthsgiving" after speaking to her daughter, Cingarkaq, last year when she returned home from kindergarten with a Thanksgiving-related homework assignment. "I just remember sitting there and looking at the curriculum and realizing that it hadn't changed from when I was in school." Wallace, who is an Orutsararmiut Native Council member, told Good Morning America, it "felt wrong" to go along with the "happy feast" storyline, without adding more Native history into the story.

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In a TikTok video, she released last year, Wallace listed five things she wanted people to do on "Truthsgiving" rather than just cooking a meal. Wallace reshared the video on her TikTok account over the weekend. "This year marks the 400th year since the lost Pilgrims stumbled onto Native lands. I’m cutting ties w/ the 'what are you thankful for' narrative this year," she wrote in the caption.

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She said she wanted people to "recognize and honor the Native lands you live on," for people to "uplift and celebrate Native voices every day." She added that educationally, one needs to check in "your children's curriculum/teachers about teaching correct historical narratives." Indigenous persons must also "Be intentional with how you spend your time as a family/community -- hold space for truth-telling," finally adding an important one, i.e. to "support Native-owned businesses, donate to Native organizations doing the work for our people."

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Wallace said that when she spoke to her daughter, "even though it was a little bit uncomfortable, she was able to still, at 5 years old, grasp the concept of the true history about Thanksgiving," and when her daughter told her classmates and teacher at school about it, they were receptive to hearing a more comprehensive account, one that Indigenous people are still revealing and sharing today.

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In an interview with GMA, 3 indigenous persons explained more about indigenous culture and family. "The prevailing narrative of the first Thanksgiving is often portrayed as a friendly harvest where Pilgrims -- really we should say separatists -- and generic, nameless Indians came together to eat and give thanks, but in reality, the assembly of the Wampanoag peoples, which is a native nation based in Massachusetts, and those English settlers in 1621, may have been more about political alliances and diplomacy and a pursuit of peace," said Renée Gokey, a teacher services coordinator at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian.

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"The important thing to note… is that a lot of people don't get that historical context of before this event and they say, 'Oh, the English used the seeds and just watched them, showed them how to plant and things.' They don't say that they actually ransacked these somewhat empty villages to take the seeds from people who died," Gokey continued, noting that the Wampanoag were victims of infectious diseases the English had brought with them.

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Today, Paula Peters, a Mashpee Wampanoag writer, sees Thanksgiving as an opportunity to advocate for Indigenous communities. "For indigenous people, for many of us, it's also a time to remember and honor the sacrifices of our ancestors and also to bring to light some of the past injustices and the injustices that still continue to this day," Peters said.

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