The Native American Youth and Family Center community garden in Portland’s Cully neighborhood was bustling Thursday with volunteers who’d put traditional Thanksgiving plans aside to honor the Indigenous community.
The Un-Thanksgiving event was established last year to offer an alternative to the colonist-centric holiday.
“There’s a lot of colonial holidays that twist and invent stories of an American myth,” said organizer Mick Rose. “They create a sense of ownership and a lie about land being given rather than land being stolen. This event is really about de-investing from that narrative, because we know it’s not true.”
Volunteers were tasked with cleaning and rebuilding the garden, which houses several spaces for different native plants. The event continues Friday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and anyone is welcome to contribute.
Rose – a member of the Diné, Omaha and Pawnee tribes – was grateful to see so many volunteers in the field and said it serves as a sign of good faith in the community.
“De-investing doesn’t look like, ‘Well I’m going to have a friendsgiving instead,’” they said. “It means to think about how you can invest in the health of the people that were harmed. Working on an Indigenous land project is an effort towards healing that lie, that myth and that harm.”
Lukas Angus, a member of the Nez Perce tribe, came to volunteer with his family. It’s the second year he’s come to the event, and he said that it gives people time to think about the history of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Having been a colonizer’s holiday, it upholds white power and the perspective of dominant society,” Angus said. “Seeing so many people here gives hope to the future being better for our people and for the land.”
Hundreds of people spanned the garden, shoveling, moving debris and laying down a walking path. They all worked together in the November sunshine to prepare the grounds for spring planting.
Joshua Ferdaszewski, accompanied by his wife and two daughters, said it was a great event to reframe the holiday.
“It’s nice to sort of change the traditional narrative into doing something positive for Native communities, reconnecting with the land,” he said. “Compared to last year, it’s huge. It’s heartwarming to see so many people willing to help on a day like this.”
– Austin De Dios; email@example.com; (503) 319-9744
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