DC School Board Chancellor Encourages Families to ‘Decolonize’ Thanksgiving

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Lewis D. Ferebee, chancellor of the public schools in Washington, DC, sent a letter to the DCPS community urging parents and children to “decolonize” Thanksgiving, a holiday he said brings “horrors up.”

After expressing his gratitude to the community and encouraging families to remain safe in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ferebee included a message titled “Recognizing the History of the Vacation.”

“Thanksgiving is a day that can be difficult for many to celebrate as we reflect on the history of the holiday and the horrors inflicted on our indigenous people,” the chancellor wrote. “If you’re celebrating, our Equity team has shared resources on how to consider decolonizing your Thanksgiving“(highlight original).

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“If you’re hosting a Thanksgiving meal, consider making one Jordan Recognition“In that message, he linked to the Native Governance Center, a non-profit dedicated to helping” Native nations. “The land recognition website that Ferebee linked to encourages people to”Use appropriate language. Do not sugar the past. Use terms such as genocide, ethnic cleansing, stolen land, and forced removal to reflect actions taken by colonizers “(original emphasis).

Lewis Ferebee, Chancellor of Washington, DC, Public Schools.  Photo courtesy of DCPS

Lewis Ferebee, Chancellor of Washington, DC, Public Schools. Photo courtesy of DCPS

Ferebee also shared “two Articles to decolonize your holiday, “and book recommendations for children and adults.

One of the articles he shared, from a site called Bioneers, claims that “what we learn in school about Thanksgiving internalizes oppression.”

“By reaching children at an age where their brains and ideas are still being formed, we normalize the idea that America is a European descendant, Christian country above all else,” the article claims. “Children of different ethnic and religious backgrounds implicitly learn that their roots are not part of American history.”

The article suggests that Americans should tell “the true story of Thanksgiving,” serve locally produced food, and “fight oppression by expanding your circle.”

A message from Washington, DC, Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee.

A message from Washington, DC, Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee.

The second article, from a site called Cultural Survival, warns that “stories told on the first Thanksgiving often perpetuate harmful stereotypes and racism.”

The article urges Americans to “learn the true story,” noting that “Thanksgiving, like Columbus Day, serves as a reminder of the genocide and the violence Native societies experienced and continue to experience.”

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The article also urges Americans to eat Native American food, to “listen to Native voices,” to support a specific piece of legislation that reverses a Trump-era policy, to support Native American artists, to buy Native American products, to share positive portrayals of Native Americans, and to “Than Racist Native Mascots in Sports.”

Flags are seen at the National Mall with the US Capitol behind them.  (AP)

Flags are seen at the National Mall with the US Capitol behind them. (AP)

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