2021 is a different kind of Thanksgiving
In solidarity with our brothers and sisters and Mother Earth,
Debra Schrishuhn for the PDA National Team
Thanksgiving 2021: Redressing the Past and
Building a Better Future for All
For the first time in U.S. history (245 years if you’re counting) a Native American is a member of the Cabinet: former Rep. Deb Haaland, member of the Laguna Pueblo people, is the 54th Secretary of the Interior. In an interview soon after her confirmation, she made clear her goals: “[I]t makes sense for the Interior Department to correct bad history where we can and move our agency and country forward.”
Secretary Haaland is a woman of her word. In her first month of service she formed a new unit in the Bureau of Indian Affairs to address the continuing crisis of missing and murdered Native Americans. During the following months, she approved a new constitution of the Cherokee Nation with protections for Cherokee Freedmen, the descendants of formerly enslaved peoples of the Cherokee Nation, and the formation of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative to investigate abuse at now-defunct residential boarding schools where Indigenous children were separated from their families and forcefully assimilated into white culture.
She supported the restoration of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, and established a process to review and replace derogatory names of the nation’s geographic features. “Racist terms have no place in our vernacular or on our federal lands. Our nation’s lands and waters should be places to celebrate the outdoors and our shared cultural heritage—not to perpetuate the legacies of oppression,” Secretary Haaland stated.
Then, on November 15th, Secretary Haaland co-signed with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack a Joint Secretarial Order on Fulfilling the Trust Responsibilities to Indian Tribes in the Stewardship of Federal Lands and Waters—the same day that the White House released an official Memorandum recognizing Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK).
On this Thanksgiving Day, PDA celebrates the ideals of a national day of giving thanks, recognizing shared values across the kaleidoscope of cultural identities that make up these United States in 2021. We reflect on our past—both good and bad—even as we recommit ourselves to building that “more perfect union” and making a future where all people are respected, appreciated, and provided with the tools for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”