The Last Thursday in November

Publication Date: Nov 27, 2019

Every year across our country on the last Thursday of November, families, friends, and loved ones gather to share a meal and give thanks. While many of us recognize the holiday as a celebration of gratitude, with little connection to our ancestral ties, the tradition is rooted in the false depiction of grateful Pilgrims breaking bread with Indigenous people.

By contrast, for many Native Americans and tribal communities, the season marks a period of mourning as they reflect on the forced relocation of their communities to reservations, the territorial colonization of their land, the violence against their ancestors, and the ongoing ramifications of that history for them today.

Consider this:

  • 28% of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in poverty.
  • 32.4% of the Native American population under the age of 18 also lives in poverty.
  • The mortality rate for American Indian children between the ages of 1 and 14 has increased by 15% since 2000.
  • The suicide rate among native youth ages 15 to 24 is 2.5 times higher than the overall national rate.

There’s evidence that shows immersing and engaging with cultural traditions and spiritual practices are protective factors against incidents of suicide for Native American Indian Youth. This is one reason why the United American Indians of New England and many other organizations in the U.S. believe the purpose of this day is to promote awareness to the problems facing Native Americans. They call on non-native individuals to join them in this effort by acknowledging the honest and inclusive truth of the historical trauma Native American communities have experienced and the implications of that trauma today.

The South Southwest Mental Health Technology Transfer Center provides training and technical assistance on evidence-based mental health interventions structured to improve the mental health of communities within our region, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and almost seventy tribal communities. Our staff is committed to approaching our work with a cultural and linguistic humility, adapting our activities to be inclusive of the diverse cultures in our region, and respecting and acknowledging the diversity of all of the communities that we serve.

Today, we invite you to join us in recognizing the holiday’s authentic history as we work together toward a more healthy, inclusive community for all.