Thanksgiving has been with the Cherokee people forever

Thanksgiving means something different to all of us. It can mean overindulging, spending time with family, traveling, turkey dinner at Cracker Barrel, or just plain ole giving thanks- maybe even all of the above. For the Cherokee people, Thanksgiving means celebrating the harvest with the tribe and community.

With the Native American Heritage Expo that has been going on for the past couple days on WCU campus, it was interesting to find out what Native American’s take on Thanksgiving actually is.

As elementary school teacher and Cherokee native, Jonnie Walkingstick, explained thanksgiving has been with the Cherokee people since day one.

“The thanksgiving day that is granted federally is just a day that has been given legal notice,” said Walkingstick. “Thanksgiving has been with us for forever.”

Walkingstick also explained that Thanksgiving means more than just celebrating a day with their families, it means getting together with the tribe at the end of the harvest and celebrating what the natives have contributed to America. They even have a green corn dance song to celebrate the harvest.

You won’t find the Cherokee children making turkeys out of their handprints in the classroom but Walkingstick shared that the way they celebrate Thanksgiving in the classroom is by talking about the native contributions to American society, not just on Thanksgiving, but with it’s ideas, people, and language.

“That is how we celebrate their worth,” said Walkingstick.