Skip to Content

Indigenous people in Colorado ask for reflection on history during Thanksgiving

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- As many sit down with loved ones to eat turkey and celebrate everything they're grateful for this year, many Indigenous people in Colorado and across the country see Thanksgiving as a day of mourning.

Raven Payment, a member of the Pikes Peak Indigenous Women's Alliance, spoke with KRDO on Thanksgiving about what this holiday means to her community. Payment finds the classic Thanksgiving story taught in most public schools to be an irresponsible narrative. She said it paints a friendly picture between pilgrims and Indigenous people, which is misleading at best.

"There's this sweet, gooey overlay over the top of, you know, what is literally genocide," Payment said.

For Payment, this holiday is a reminder of all the mass killings of Native American people committed by white settlers.

"Every time there was a massacre, they would have a feast to celebrate [the] massacre of native people," Payment said. "So, George Washington determined that it was just easier to designate one day of the year, which then started to be that harvest festival to celebrate these massacres."

There's debate over the exact origin of the first Thanksgiving proclamation. Historians acknowledge that settlers had thanksgivings after violent events, but they say there's no connection to those thanksgivings and the holiday we celebrate today.

Eventually, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation to make the Thanksgiving holiday official, but Payment says it was around the same time as another mass murder of Native Americans.

"He marched on what we call the Dakota 38, which is the largest mass execution in US history in which they hanged 38 Dakota men during the Dakota wars, and so then it turns into the Thanksgiving that we have today," Payment said.

Payment believes that it's important to have a day to stay home with your loved ones and celebrate everything you're thankful for, she just hopes that you're thoughtful in how you observe Thanksgiving.

"We have this almost commercialism, consumerism, with, you know, this underlying message of gratitude and blessings and thankfulness, and oftentimes, that message is actually at the expense of indigenous people," Payment said.

To Payment, being thoughtful about this holiday includes thinking twice before saying, "Happy Thanksgiving!" She believes it's akin to saying, "Happy Massacre", given the holiday's origin.

Payment also said there are three main ways to support Indigenous people on Thanksgiving: educate yourself on American History and the issues still facing Native Americans; be an ally for Native American causes, like renaming landmarks that are harmful to Indigenous people or support the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives movement; and donate to causes that provide support to our local Native American community.

Some organizations benefiting our Native American community in Colorado are the Denver Indian Family Resource Center, One Nation Walking Together, and the Haseya Advocate Program.

Author Profile Photo

Sydnee Stelle

Sydnee is an MMJ for KRDO NewsChannel 13. You can learn more about her here.



  1. What they also don’t teach is that these people were at war with each other and made slaves out of “pows”. So please, stop pretending you were a peaceful people.

  2. Are they going to reflect on the tribes their tribes killed and took land from? Because that was going on for a couple of thousand years before white people arrived.

  3. I will indeed reflect on the huge mistake that was made. Learn from history. They should have held up Rome and Carthage as the ideal. That way we would not have these issues today.

    1. Good point. I wonder if conquered peoples are ever thankful that their conquerors that allowed them to live for whatever reason didn’t commit total and complete genocide abs annihilation.

      You would think huh? Instead of being woke?

  4. “Every time there was a masacre, they would have a feast to celebrate [the] masacre of native people,” Payment said.
    Yeah, so did the Commanche. I could spend the next ten minutes typing all about the disgusting and horrific ways the Commanche tortured women, children and the elderly of other indigenous tribes. They almost wiped out the Apache tribe.
    Don’t come out now and try to tell us how peaceful indigenous Americans were.

  5. Raven Payment, please spare me your lecture! I am well aware of history but I’m not going to feel guilt and shame during my Thanksgiving time with my family and friends. How far back in history do we need to go to continue to feel guilt and remorse for what other people have done? Should the Italians pay for the crimes of Caligula? What about the Ottomans? Back and forth, eons upon eons people and cultures of ALL races and ethnicities have committed wars, genocides and atrocities and invasions. How long must we dwell on it? Every year at holiday dinners? No, I think not.

Leave a Reply

Skip to content