Busting the Thanksgiving Myth: Native Sovereignty & the Red Road

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Pilgrims, Indians, the myth of the grateful colonized person — it’s been at the core of a persistent but false Thanksgiving narrative that has distorted the true relationship between Indigenous Peoples and white colonizers dating back to Plymouth Rock. As many of us observe Thanksgiving and Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the new federal holiday, Judith LeBlanc, executive director of the Native Organizers Alliance, reminds us that “people are questioning.” In the midst of a national reckoning with white supremacy and colonial history, Indigenous people are demanding a new relationship with DC — honoring the traditional, legal, and moral rights of Native nations. In 2021, a group of Native organizers invited Laura to travel with a 25-foot totem pole from the Lummi Nation in Washington State to Washington D.C. stopping for ceremonies in communities under threat and gathering messages for the Biden-Harris administration. In DC they held a historic meeting with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. In this episode, we hear what happened in that meeting, how Native movements are changing, among other myths, the Thanksgiving story, and where a Red Road to the future might lead us — if we followed it. November is National American Indian Heritage Month.

“. . . When Native peoples are taking a stand, whether it’s no DAPL at Standing Rock or the Keystone XL Pipeline . . . it’s not just a Native American issue. We’re defending the water and the land for tens of millions of Americans.” – Crystal Echo Hawk

“Laws and policies were written without considering Indigenous communities’ challenges or their strengths . . . Today and every day, we break barriers to those institutions and systems that were designed to keep us out.” – Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland

“We’re hoping this Thanksgiving, people take a look at what has happened in this country when it comes to reckoning with systemic racism . . . We bring the idea that we’re all in relationship.” – Judith LeBlanc


  • Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee Nation): IllumiNative, Founder & CEO
  • Judith LeBlanc (Caddo Nation): Director, Native Organizers Alliance
  • Mari Margil: Executive Director, Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights
  • Anahkwet/Guy Reiter (Menominee): Executive Director, Menīkānaehkem Community Rebuilders
  • Faith Spotted Eagle: Ihanktonwon Dakota Elder & Brave Heart Society Kunsi Member

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