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Iowa Indigenous Group To Host 'Truthsgiving'

A group of people pose for a photo. They are wearing maroon sweatshirts that say "The truth will not be whitewashed," and matching masks.
Courtesy Sikowis, Christine Nobiss
Great Plains Action Society
The Great Plains Action Society pose for a photo with sweatshirts promoting one of the mantras behind 'Truthsgiving.' "Truthsgiving is an attempt to abolish or change colonial holidays that perpetuate dangerous stereotypes and whitewashed history," Sikowis said.

Thanksgiving Day doesn't mean the day to be thankful for some of Iowa's indigenous peoples. It's a day to remember the struggles the native communities went through during colonial times.

At the online "Truthsgiving" event, an indigenous peoples group will host guest speakers to talk about the hidden stories and stereotyping behind the last Thursday in November. Sikowis, also known as Christine Nobiss, founded Great Plains Action Society and identifies as a "decolonizer."

"Truthsgiving is a resistance to Thanksgiving. But not just a resistance, it's a celebration as well," Sikowis said. "It's an ideology where we try to understand the mythology of Thanksgiving and the white-washed history that continues in our country which empowers dangerous stereotypes about indigenous peoples."

She mentioned imagery taught in schools and a slanted view of pilgrims' relationships with the Native people in the Northeast.

Sikowis started Truthsgiving with her own family five years ago, but this is the third time the event will be public. She said this year is particularly hard. The COVID-19 pandemic plays a painful parallel to entire Native nations dying from colonial diseases around the time of the first Thanksgiving. It's estimated 90 percent of indigenous people died from disease when Europeans arrived in North America.

"We think it's really important that during this time, during this problematic holiday, the mythology is actually built off of the spread of disease," Sikowis said.

Sikowis said she doesn’t want people to stop celebrating with family, but she does want to "change the narrative" and educate people about what the day means for some indigenous communities.

“I would love if we could just abolish the celebration of Thanksgiving, though," Sikowis explained. "I would love if we could overcome the stereotypes that are still perpetuated.”

Sikowis said this year there has been even more interest in the event, which will be held over Facebook Live. The speakers will also publicize some of the efforts to help support the native communities in the Midwest that have been hit hard by the pandemic, like providing Personal Protective Equipment and other resources.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines
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