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What Thanksgiving means to Montana’s Native American community

UM Native American Thanksgiving
Posted at 8:01 AM, Nov 23, 2022

MISSOULA - For many people, the turkey is already thawed out and we know which house we’re stopping by for food and football on Thanksgiving — but the holiday is more than just a day off.

The history of Thanksgiving heavily involves Native Americans, their contributions, and their sacrifices for the country we all call home. We wanted to find out how the Native American community right here in Montana observes the holiday.

MTN News spoke with University of Montana Chair of Native American Studies Dr. Annie Belcourt. She talked with us about how her family celebrates Thanksgiving. And for them, it’s deeper than just tasty dishes.

“With this holiday, it’s complex. This is a holiday that we as Native people — most people have celebrated it to some degree because it’s a day off of work and it’s also a day where you can spend time with our loved ones and our family. But it’s also a day where we have to sort of reflect on the history for native people and the sacrifices that we have had to make over the course of our history.” - Dr. Annie Belcourt

Dr. Belcourt also says it’s a day to remember the obstacles her ancestors overcame and to honor them through her gift of education.

People who would like to learn more about how Native American history and the connection to Thanksgiving can visit the Payne Family Native American Center on the University of Montana campus and the Office of Public Instruction.

November is Native American Heritage Month, and MTN is celebrating the rich culture of Montana’s Indigenous communities with a special presentation, "Honoring Heritage." It features one-of-a-kind stories about Native history, culture, and the issues facing Indigenous populations today.

The program will air at 4:30 p.m. and 10:35 p.m. on Sunday on MTN.