The letter was sent on Nov. 18 by Lewis Ferebee, the chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, and begins as a letter of gratitude to the D.C. public school community for working hard to ensure the capital’s schools could reopen properly.
The letter, entitled "Sharing My Gratitude" reads; "Dear DCPS Families, This Thanksgiving, I want to reflect on the past year and express my gratitude to the entire DC Public Schools community. Our students, families, staff, and supporters have worked tremendously hard to reopen our schools, learn new routines, and reconnect with each other. Every moment I spend in our schools, I am struck by joyful learning happening. I am inspired by the warmth of our educators and the curiosity of our students."
Nonetheless, after expressing gratitude “for the hard work of all our staff, and the support of our families” and imploring those eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, Ferebee declares Thanksgiving is “a day that can be difficult for many to celebrate as we reflect on the history of the holiday and the horrors inflicted on our indigenous populations.”
“If you celebrate, our Equity team has shared resources for how you can consider decolonizing your Thanksgiving,” Ferebee wrote.
“If you host a Thanksgiving meal, consider doing a land acknowledgment,” he continued, linking to a government website that provides instructions on how to make an “Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Statement.”
The article suggests that Americans should tell "the real story of Thanksgiving," serve locally-sourced food, and "address oppression by widening your circle."
In addition to recommending two books on Native Americans, Ferebee also offered the link to two websites that provide a handful of steps for “decolonizing” Thanksgiving. This includes eating Native American dishes for dinner or calling your congressional representative to advocate on behalf of a tribe’s reservation.
The additional article, from a site named Cultural Survival, warns that "stories told about the first Thanksgiving often perpetuate harmful stereotypes and racism."
The article urges Americans to "learn the real history," noting that "Thanksgiving, like Columbus Day, serves as a reminder of the genocide and violence Native communities experienced and continue to experience."
The article also encourages Americans to eat Native American food, to "listen to indigenous voices," to support a specific piece of legislation reversing a Trump-era policy, to support Native American artists, to buy Native products, to share positive depictions of Native Americans, and to "End Racist Native Mascots in Sports."
Ferebee did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.