Decolonizing The Teaching of Thanksgiving

November 8, 2023

Every November, the American tradition of Thanksgiving takes center stage, with images of pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a bountiful meal ingrained in our cultural consciousness. However, the way Thanksgiving is taught in schools often perpetuates harmful stereotypes and myths about Native peoples. As November marks the beginning of Native American Heritage month, the need to decolonize Thanksgiving education, providing a toolkit for parents and educators to approach this holiday with respect, accuracy, and inclusivity becomes necessary.

In many U.S. elementary schools, November marks a period of stereotypical and racist portrayals of Native peoples. Students engage in historically inaccurate activities, such as arts and crafts, books, lessons about a shared Thanksgiving meal, and even songs and plays featuring hand-crafted headdresses and vests. These portrayals present Native peoples in an ahistorical way and reinforce myths about colonial encounters. Most concerning is that these activities often reduce the diversity of Native cultures into a single, homogenized image, ignoring the rich tapestry of Indigenous communities and turning contemporary Native identities into mere costumes.

Decolonizing Thanksgiving means rejecting these myths and stereotypes, while engaging with Native perspectives that celebrate the diversity of Indigenous cultures and their presence in the 21st century. One way to do this is through children’s literature. Books like Sally Hunter’s “Four Seasons of Corn: A Winnebago Tradition” provide valuable insights into historical subsistence methods and demonstrate how these traditions continue today.


1. Sample Letters to Send to Your Child’s School: These letters are valuable tools for parents who wish to advocate for a more inclusive approach to discussing Thanksgiving. One letter, written by Katrina Phillips, Ph.D., recognizes the harm caused by problematic classroom activities and suggests resources for teaching Native culture to children. [Read Sample Letters]

2. Resources for Educators and Families: This section provides a wealth of resources to teach about Thanksgiving and Native peoples in a socially responsible manner. It includes articles, lesson plans, and resources to help disrupt harmful stereotypes and provide students with accurate information.

  • “Ten Ways to Make Your Thanksgiving about Social and Environmental Justice” by Eve Bratman (2016). [Read Article]
  • “Teaching Thanksgiving in a Socially Responsible Way” by Amanda Morris (2015). [Read Article]
  • “PreK-12 Social Studies Lesson Plans & Resources” from the Montana Office of Public Instruction. [Access Lessons]
  • “Thanksgiving Teacher Resources” from the Archaeology Education Clearing House. [Access Resources]
  • “Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the Classroom with These Resources” by Mickey Kudia (2015). [Read Article]
  • “A Racial Justice Guide to Thanksgiving for Educators and Families” by Border Crossers. [Access Resources]

3. Children’s Books about Native Peoples, Cultures, and Traditions: These books provide authentic portrayals of Native cultures and traditions, offering an alternative to the problematic narratives often found in schools.

  •     “Bowwow Powwow” by Brenda J. Child (Red Lake Ojibwe).
  •     “We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga” by Traci Sorell (Cherokee).
  •     “The First Strawberries” by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki).
  •     “Four Seasons of Corn: A Winnebago Tradition” by Sally M. Hunter (Ojibwe).
  •     “Rabbit Goes Duck Hunting: A Traditional Cherokee Legend” by Deborah L. Duvall.
  •     “Clambake: A Wampanoag Tradition” by Russell M. Peters (Wampanoag).
  •     “The Sacred Harvest: Ojibway Wild Rice Gathering” by Gordon Regguinti (Ojibwe).
  •     “Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message” by Jake Swamp (Mohawk).
  •     “Ininatig’s Gift of Sugar: Traditional Native Sugarmaking” by Laura Waterman Wittstock (Seneca).
  •     “Deconstructing the Myths of ‘The First Thanksgiving'” by Judy Dow (Abenaki).
  •     “American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving” from the National Museum of the American Indian.

Decolonizing Thanksgiving in schools is essential to promoting accurate, inclusive, and respectful education about Native peoples. By adopting a decolonizing approach and using the resources and tools in this toolkit, parents and educators can help ensure that the true history and diversity of Indigenous cultures are acknowledged, celebrated, and understood, while harmful stereotypes and myths are cast aside. It is our responsibility to offer a more accurate and respectful education that reflects the reality of Native American heritage.

Links from Medium: Decolonizing Thanksgiving: A Toolkit for Combating Racism in Schools

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The Broken Borders and the Horror of Child Labor

September 24, 2023

Immigration and border security issues have long been controversial, receiving extensive media coverage and sparking political debate. But amid the heated debate over border walls, asylum seekers, and deportation policies, one aspect of this crisis is often overlooked: the devastating impact this crisis has on children. As we honor Hispanic Heritage Month, we bring light to the dark reality of child labor because of a broken border system, highlighting the tragic circumstances that force young souls into lives of exploitation.

Imagine you are a child and you have to leave everything you know in search of a better life. Many children who arrive at the border are often with families fleeing violence, poverty, and persecution in their home countries. Their journeys are dangerous and often led by smugglers who exploit their weaknesses.

Once they cross the border into the United States, some children live in overcrowded detention centers or struggle to survive in poor neighborhoods. Without proper documentation or access to legal protection, they are especially vulnerable to abuse.

Child labor is a harsh reality in many parts of the world, and the United States is not exempt from this problem. A broken border system further exacerbates the vulnerability of migrant children, leaving them vulnerable to unscrupulous employers who exploit their desperation for economic gain.  These children often end up working on farms, in factories, or even in homes as domestic servants. They work long hours for low pay, often in dangerous conditions. They are denied education, health, and the right to a childhood without work.

One of the main reasons child labor persists among migrant children is the lack of legal protection and access to the justice system. They are often afraid to report exploitation to authorities because it could lead to deportation of themselves or their families. This fear allows unscrupulous employers to act with impunity.

Additionally, language barriers and lack of awareness of workers’ rights make these children easy targets. Many of them do not know their rights and do not know how to seek help if they find themselves in exploitative situations.

Child labor is not only morally reprehensible, but also poses significant health and safety risks for these young workers. They are often exposed to harmful pesticides on farmland, dangerous machinery in factories, and even physical abuse in the home. Without access to proper medical care or the ability to report dangerous situations, their lives are constantly at risk.

Education is a fundamental right for all children, but children caught up in the cycle of child labor are denied this right. Immigrant children are often taken out of school to support their families or because their parents may need to prioritize survival over education.

Lack of access to quality education creates a cycle of poverty, limits children’s future potential and traps them in a cycle of exploitation. Because they lack access to education, they are economically vulnerable and socially excluded throughout their lives. 

To combat the horrors of child labor among migrant children, we must first understand the root causes and then work together to implement lasting solutions.

1. Comprehensive immigration reform:

Comprehensive immigration reform is essential to addressing the root causes of child labor. Until then, we cannot permit child labor. 

2. Strengthening Labor Protections:

It is imperative to strengthen labor laws and enforcement mechanisms to protect all workers, regardless of their immigration status. This includes robust penalties for employers who exploit migrant children and mechanisms for reporting abuse without fear of retribution. 

3. Access to Education:

All children, regardless of their immigration status, should have access to quality education. This means addressing language barriers, providing educational support for migrant children, and ensuring that they can attend school without fear of deportation. 

4. Awareness and Outreach:

Efforts should be made to raise awareness among migrant communities about their rights and available support services. Outreach programs can help bridge language and cultural gaps, empowering children, and families to seek help when needed. 

5. International Cooperation:

Addressing child labor among migrant children requires international cooperation. The United States should work with countries of origin to address the root causes of migration, such as violence and poverty, and support programs that create economic opportunities in these countries. 

The broken border system in the United States has created a humanitarian crisis that disproportionately affects children, leaving them vulnerable to the horrors of child labor. These young souls, already fleeing desperate circumstances, are further victimized by exploitation, denied their right to education, and subjected to unsafe working conditions.

To combat child labor among migrant children, we must address the root causes of migration, provide legal protections, and ensure access to education and healthcare. It is a collective responsibility to protect these vulnerable children, give them the chance to reclaim their childhood, and build a brighter future.

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Maintaining DEI Momentum: Best Practices for Businesses Post-Supreme Court

July 28, 2023

The US Supreme Court has recently ruled that race can no longer be considered as a factor in university admissions. The landmark ruling upends decades-old US policies on so-called affirmative action, also known as positive discrimination. The ruling means that admissions programs like those at the two universities at the center of the case, Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, are no longer permitted. While the decision will impact admissions policies that have historically benefited Black and Latino students, the ruling still allows colleges and universities to consider an applicant’s discussion of how race has affected their life as long as it is “concretely tied” to a “quality of character or unique ability” that the applicant can bring to the school.


It’s important to note that the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action has no legal effect on workplace law. Hiring and firing decisions cannot be impacted by protected traits, period. However, experts who work and study workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts are worried about what the court’s decision on affirmative action will mean for these initiatives as conservative groups take their fight against diversity efforts even further.

Legal experts note that the Supreme Court’s decision only impacted affirmative action in higher-education admissions, not affirmative action in private workplaces. The court held that affirmative action violates the Equal Protection Clause in the US Constitution (and, by extension, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), but did not hold that affirmative action violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—the main statute governing the employment relationship.

So, don’t shrink back from doing the good work your organization is doing! Most DEI workplace initiatives are not affirmative action in the sense addressed in the decision—because they do not involve employers considering race or other legally protected characteristics when making hiring or promotion decisions.  The predominant DEI work centers on:

  • maximizing employee potential and their contribution to the workplace and integrating that into organizational business goals and strategic plans.
  • a strengths-based approach to organizational change.
  • driving business outcomes and organizational culture voluntarily.
  • a business case marked by quantitative and qualitative transformation.
  • a proactive process of change, based on key performance indicators, representation, and aspirations for equity.
  • including a wider range of diversity dimensions, including cognitive styles, cultural styles, beliefs, and traditions.
  • making better quality decisions due to diverse working teams; connecting with diverse customers; acknowledging that a diverse workforce is a rich source of innovations.
  • valuing and managing diversity that is achieved through awareness, education, and positive recognition of the qualities, experiences, and work styles that make individuals unique within the workplace.
  • including and positively affecting everyone, regardless of identity.

So, what should businesses focus on now?

According to an article on Harvard Business Review, companies can and should recommit to DEI in the wake of the Supreme Court decision1.  Companies should continue to set clear, data-driven DEI goals that aim to increase the diversity of underrepresented groups in their organization, improve the equity of their policies and procedures and drive the inclusion of their culture or belonging. Companies should also fund and staff programs that promote their DEI goals to set them up for success2.

Some experts believe that the ruling may expose corporations to potential legal challenges and prompt them to reconsider their DEI initiatives. As the impact of the decision unfolds, companies will need to navigate the changing legal landscape to ensure compliance with the law while addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workforce3.

According to an article on BSR, business leaders that care about hiring and retaining diverse and exceptional talent, developing and delivering innovative products and services, and attracting a diversified consumer base should underscore their company’s long-term commitment to diversity. They should also commit to corporate accountability initiatives that focus on racial equity and DEI in the workplace. Companies should assess their hiring data to identify barriers to diverse talent acquisition and surface factors that may support the long-term hiring of diverse workers4. –

Integrity, respect, honesty concept – shining light bulbs – 3D illustration

What DEI focus should businesses have after the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action?

An article on Perkins Coie suggests that employers should assess their current policies and practices related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Employers should also consider whether their policies are tailored to meet the manifest imbalances test5.

What else can your company do to keep your DEI efforts strong in this constantly changing legal environment?

  1. Be sure your hiring and promotion decisions are based on merit considerations versus Title VII protected identities (race, color, religion, sex, and national origin).
  2. Keep investing in pipeline programs to diversify your talent pools.
  3. Continue your targeted outreach to colleges with diverse student populations, like HBCUs, HSIs, and NASNTIs.
  4. Audit your recruitment, performance evaluation, compensation, and promotion policies and procedures to irradicate implicit bias.
  5. Establish employee resource groups to build a more inclusive environment for underrepresented people groups.
  6. Educate and train staff on unbiased and inclusive hiring and promotion practices.
  7. Launch mentorship, reverse mentorship and sponsorship programs.
  8. Expand allyship by opening programs to people of any identity concerned about various DEI topics, not just underrepresented people groups.
  9. Focus on goals that eliminate workplace biases, barriers, and inequities versus goals that concentrate on specific demographic and protected class outcomes.
  10. Deemphasize strict numerical metrics and targets.
  11. Attend to building a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and belonging that benefits everyone, including members of majority or dominant groups.

Help is available right now!

These strategies require the knowledge and expertise to execute and make lasting, impactful change.  The People Company Consulting Group Inclusion Institute’s Certificate Programs and Certified Diversity Practitioner Program can get you and your team upskilled and ready to lead the change you need to make in your organization.  Join our August cohort of certified diversity practitioner participants and learn the advantages of LGBTQIA+ Workplace Inclusion at our September 13th certificate program.


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Navigating the DEI Legal Landscape

Navigating the Challenging Landscape: Businesses Facing Controversial Legislation Impacting ALAANA and MOGII Communities

June 28, 2023

*Acknowledging the deficiency inherent in umbrella terms and labels, the terms ALAANA (African, Latinx, Arab, Asian, or Native American) versus BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and MOGII (Marginalized Orientations, Gender Identities, and Intersex) versus LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual and the plus, which allows expansion to include more identities) are used, despite acknowledging those two umbrella terms also do not cover every marginalized identity. 

In the ever-evolving landscape of business, where the intersection of commerce and social progress often collide, there emerges a complex web of challenges that confront companies striving for inclusion and equity. Lately, a wave of legislative measures at the state level has given rise to concerns among businesses, particularly those advocating for the rights of people from diverse, underrepresented, and marginalized communities.

These laws, seen by many as detrimental to the very fabric of diversity and social progress, pose formidable hurdles for businesses operating in affected regions. Here, we delve into the intricate difficulties faced by these businesses as they grapple with the implications of such controversial legislation.

At the heart of these legislative measures lies a troubling threat to the essence of inclusion. In states where discriminatory laws have been enacted, companies that have embraced cultivating a diverse workforce and fostering an inclusive environments now find themselves at odds with the values they hold dear. These laws, by their very nature, impede the hiring, retention, and promotion of ALAANA and MOGII individuals, perpetuating the very inequalities many have fought so hard to overcome. The result? A stifling of innovation and an erosion of the foundations upon which successful organizations are built.

Yet, the challenges extend beyond the realm of ethics and social responsibility, permeating the legal and financial landscape. Companies standing firmly in support of inclusive policies and employee rights may face legal battles and lawsuits, as they dare to prioritize their values above discriminatory legislation. The uncertainty that shrouds such legal battles can cast a long shadow over a company’s reputation and financial stability, deterring potential investors, partners, and customers who place a premium on social responsibility.

Moreover, the ripple effects of these contentious laws can be felt acutely in a company’s bottom line. The association of businesses with regions where such legislation holds sway often invites backlash in the form of boycotts and consumer-led campaigns. The consequences are all too real—a decline in sales, a tarnished brand image, and ultimately, reduced profitability. Navigating the treacherous waters of social activism, legislation, and consumer sentiment becomes an art form that businesses must master to mitigate the risks they face.

But the impact of controversial legislation stretches beyond balance sheets and shareholder value. It affects the very well-being and job satisfaction of employees, particularly those from marginalized communities. In states where discriminatory laws prevail, the morale and mental health of MOGII and ALAANA employees are inevitably compromised, as they grapple with increased vulnerability and exclusion. The toll is unmistakable—higher turnover rates and a challenging environment for attracting and retaining top talent.

Businesses that prioritize the well-being and inclusion of their workforce often find themselves walking a precarious tightrope, caught between the legal landscape and the need to support and retain their employees. The task of striking a delicate balance between compliance with local laws and the principles that underpin a fair and inclusive workplace poses a significant challenge.

Indeed, these legislative battles thrust upon businesses can impede their efforts toward increased social responsibility and ethical duty. Many companies have invested heavily in corporate social responsibility initiatives aimed at cultivating diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, when confronted with the harsh reality of operating in states that harbor discriminatory legislation, businesses face ethical dilemmas. They must make the difficult choice of either upholding their principles and facing potential backlash or adapting their practices to align with local laws, potentially alienating employees and customers who hold the value of inclusion dear. It is a tightrope walk that tests the values and integrity of businesses to their core.

Yet, in the face of these challenges, a glimmer of hope emerges—a beacon of collective action and advocacy. Many businesses are rising to the occasion, embracing the role of advocates and lobbyists, leveraging their economic influence and industry clout to exert pressure on lawmakers. Through alliances, participation in legal battles, and financial support, companies are actively working to protect the rights of marginalized communities and foster inclusive environments.

It is in this spirit that businesses must chart their course forward, armed with a proactive stance in driving change. By collaborating with organizations, employees, consumers, and lawmakers alike, businesses can foster environments that prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion. Together, organizations can strive for a future where legislation not only supports the rights and well-being of all individuals, regardless of their diverse identities and lived experiences but actively champions the progress they seek to achieve.

In the challenging landscape ahead, businesses must navigate myriad hurdles—threats to inclusion and belonging, legal and financial implications, employee well-being, ethical dilemmas, and the pressing need for advocacy. It is only by threading this intricate needle with care and conviction that we can pave the way toward a more just and equitable society.

Deborah Biddle

Verona March for Racial Justice

June 17, 2020

Good evening.

As the events of the recent months and days have unfolded—Coronavirus, the killing of Black men and women, and the hateful threat to Christian Cooper, my thoughts and emotions have wandered from deep despair to anger to frustration.  I’ve seen and heard about incidents like these numerous times over the course of my life.

So, I try to guard myself from feelings of numbness and futility. I wade my way through the concern for my husband and sons … knowing, but for the grace of God, they could have been Treyvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, or George Floyd.  Or, I could have been Sandra Bland or Breonna Taylor.

I am glad about the outrage and interest and protests from people … people who don’t look like me.  But, I am also conflicted about the fact that it took seeing a man murdered in broad daylight for people to engage … to finally see what we’ve been saying … what we’ve been living for over 400 years in this county.

People are now asking questions because they are frustrated, disheartened, challenged and perhaps even convicted by what they see happening around the nation. They ask because they fear what could happen next. They wonder about their own complicity, if they say or do nothing. They question whether or not their voices or actions really matter when it comes to solving what seems impossible to resolve.

I can’t speak for every Black person. I can only speak for myself. And my answer is this:  Yes, it matters. It matters when you stop and take note of what it is like to be Black in America. It matters when you protest. It matters when you use your voice. It matters when you show up. It matters when you take steps to engage and partner in doing whatever you can with your influence, your power, your privilege and your resources to eradicate the evil of racism and eliminate senseless killing of Black people, and the discrimination, racial and ethnic bias, assaults, insults and aggressions against Black people. It matters when you extend yourself in friendship and allyship to the just causes of civil rights, human rights, equity and inclusion.

As individuals and leaders discerning a right response to the injustices wrought from discrimination, racism, cynicism, anger, fear and division, begin with self-examination. Know that your biases affect what you think and do. Consider the consequences. Look for connections versus focusing on difference. Examine ways you can use your privilege and resources to be part of the solution to end racial inequity.

After you’ve done the self-work or while you’re doing it, take a look at what is happening around you.  If you look, you will see the poverty, disparate educational, health and socioeconomic conditions.  If you open your eyes and look, you can see the injustices and inequities in the criminal justice system and housing and employment practices.  Don’t look away.  Don’t ignore it. Get in the fight.  It matters.

Commit to racial justice. Wherever you have influence—in your home, community, schools, workplace, marketplace, government, place of worship—use it to make those places free from racial discrimination and harassment, bias, and aggression.

Respond when issues of discrimination or harassment arise and take proactive measures to monitor for and prevent them.  Say something–Do something. It matters. Don’t let those jokes, slights and insults slide by.  Be an ally.  Be a voice for the oppressed.  Be a voice for change.

Be willing to purposefully identify, discuss and challenge issues of race and color and the impacts they have on people and in your neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. Challenge yourselves to understand and correct any inequities you see.  Shift your perspective to see that racial equity is a journey worth embarking upon and a journey that will benefit the good of all of people in society.

Without a willingness to grapple with the impact of racial bias and talk about the effects of systemic racism along with the effects on our decision-making, engagement with one another, policies, practices, education, housing, healthcare and jobs—progress is fleeting when it comes to eliminating racism.

Racism is insidious and it corrupts. It threatens. Racism is just plain wrong.

To everyone here today, recognize that it matters what you do and say.  Your presence and action matters.  So, use your voice, power, privilege, resources and influence. Don’t watch another Black person die—and act to end racism.

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of what I have said this evening—if unity and love and dignity and respect have made any difference in your life—if being in community means anything to you—if you have a heart—and a brain—eyes to see and ears to hear—if you care— then do me a favor:

  • Stand for justice—better yet fight for justice
  • love each other, be deep-spirited friends
  • don’t push your way to the front
  • don’t always have to be right
  • put yourself aside, and help somebody else get ahead
  • don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage
  • forget yourself long enough to lend a helping hand to someone else
  • make the hard choices, take the tough actions
  • agree to think better, do better and be better

And, end racism now.

Woman in a field with hands raised

Leadership Response During Troubling Times

June 6, 2020

I am occasionally asked by organizational leaders, “What should I do?” in response to societal issues involving bias and racism. Questions like, “What should I say?” or “How can I help?” come from compassionate well-meaning leaders and colleagues who sincerely want to know what to do. Read more

Three people sitting inside room

Becoming a More Inclusive Leader

Recently, I trained for a group of leaders on unconscious bias and inclusive leadership. As we were discussing the impact of exclusion in work environments, particularly the impact of microaggressions, a leader commented, “Sometimes, I don’t have the time to worry about how I say something to a team member. Sometimes, they are wrong, and their ideas aren’t very good. Sometimes people are too sensitive. Where does it end? I worry that everything I say can be construed as offensive or microaggressive. How far is too far with all of this sensitivity and inclusion stuff?” Read more

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In Search of Workplace Civility During Uncivil Times

In nearly every arena of our society, there is a measurable increase in “bad behavior.” From abusive relationships and marriages, bullying at every age in schools, rude and insulting co-workers, raging motorists, contentious politicians, ranting newscasters, and snarky comedians to abounding racists and supremacists, each are becoming all too commonplace in America.

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Ouch! Workplace Microaggression Hurts

According to Derald Wing Sue, PhD, of Columbia University, “Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”

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Overcoming Unconscious Bias

You can find it in every work environment, but most of us don’t see it. It interferes with good management decision-making, affecting everything from hiring, promotions, layoffs, and teambuilding to advertising, marketing, product development, and product placement. It impacts our thought processes and can cloud our judgment.

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