Friends — For many, Thanksgiving offers a much needed break and gives us an opportunity to come together and share food and build memories with people we care about.
For others, particularly for many Indigenous Americans, Thanksgiving is a time to grieve the genocide of millions of Native peoples, the theft of land, and the continued erasure of Indigenous culture. This includes erasing the fact that many Indigenous women were forced to be domestic workers.
We aren’t sending this email to “take Thanksgiving away” from anyone. But we do want everyone to understand that we can reclaim and redefine those things that have caused harm — and holidays are no exception.
Let’s throw away the harmful narrative we’ve all been taught. Instead, let’s lean into the values that fuel our movement — care, generosity and gratitude. And let’s all take a moment to honor the power and strength of Indigenous women as we celebrate the holiday.
One way to honor Indigenous women is to learn more about their challenges, resilience and power. Did you know that, before European conquest, Indigenous women had spiritual, political and economic power that most European women did not have? Women within the matrilineal societies of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek (Muscogee) nations in the Southeast owned their own households and the goods produced from them. Navajo women also held great economic and political power since they owned large herds of sheep and other livestock.
Indigenous domestic workers understood their own economic power and rebelled against labor exploitation in numerous ways. They shared their stories, exposing wage theft and poor working conditions. And they fought back, and began to negotiate labor conditions to agree upon workload and wages before they accepted a job.
You can learn more on NDWA’s Interactive History of Domestic Work and Worker Organizing.
Thanks for everything that you do,
National Domestic Workers Alliance
P.S. Next Wednesday, November 30, is Indigenous Women’s Pay Day, which marks the day that Native women need to work until they make what white men made in the previous year. Take a moment to raise awareness on this topic and the numerous struggles that Indigenous women face by sharing the timelines linked above.