Navigating Thanksgiving: A Native Mom’s Journey in Tradition


As a 38-year-old Navajo woman raising two incredible boys in the heart of New Mexico, my journey through motherhood has always included an emphasis on tradition, identity, and the delicate dance of existing in two worlds.

We can all agree, the holiday season can be a tangled web of emotions for many. As a Native person, my connection with Thanksgiving has always been bittersweet. The history told to us behind the meaning of the holiday misses crucial pieces, with half-truths and sanitized narratives that don’t quite capture the reality of the past. So we choose not to celebrate a holiday painted with ambiguity and historical missteps. We choose to be different. This choice lies in the power of transformation and leading by example for my boys.

Navigating Thanksgiving: A Native Mom's Journey in TraditionWe may not participate in popular Thanksgiving traditions, but we weave a richer tapestry of cultural understanding and pride within the walls of our home. It’s about embracing our Navajo roots, navigating the tricky waters of tradition, positive and negative, and creating a legacy for the next generation.

Being a minority mom adds yet another perspective. Our state is a vibrant mosaic of cultures, something that I love because it contributes to the kaleidoscope of diversity that defines New Mexico as a state. As I guide my boys through the intricacies of their identity, I find strength in the shared experiences of other minority moms. We can be and are, in many ways, the architects of our children’s worldview, shaping it with the bricks of cultural pride and a perspective different from what is portrayed in popular media.

» » » » » » » » » » »  RELATED READ: The Truth About the First Thanksgiving  « « « « « « « « « « «

Passing on traditions is no small feat, especially when those traditions are not what is commonly represented in the mainstream. It’s not about replicating the past for me. It’s about evolving and adapting, like the resilient woman that I know I am and the resilient woman I was raised by. Traditions should not be stagnant. They are living, breathing entities that grow and change with every generation.

So, how do we navigate the holiday season, especially when Thanksgiving carries a heavy baggage of conflicting narratives?

It starts with an open conversation. I talk to my boys about the true history of Thanksgiving, the importance of acknowledging the Native perspective, and the strength that comes from embracing our heritage. We don’t shy away from the uncomfortable truths. And in doing so, we build a foundation of honesty and resilience.

Navigating Thanksgiving: A Native Mom's Journey in TraditionLeading by example is a cornerstone of our family values. My actions speak louder than words, and by incorporating Navajo customs into our daily lives, I show my boys the beauty of their heritage. Whether it’s preparing traditional meals, participating in cultural ceremonies, or simply sharing stories passed down through generations, we make every moment an opportunity for connection and learning.

It’s also not about rejecting the outside world. It’s about finding a balance. Our family is a bridge between two worlds, navigating the mainstream while cherishing the uniqueness of our Navajo heritage. We celebrate the diversity that surrounds us, fostering a sense of unity and appreciation for all native cultures and cultures around the world.

Navigating Thanksgiving: A Native Mom's Journey in TraditionAs a mom, I’ve learned that the most profound lessons are often subtle. It’s in the everyday moments, the quiet conversations, and the shared laughter that we pass on the essence of who we are and essentially who we hope our kids will be. I want my boys to take pride in their culture, to carry the stories and teachings of our ancestors into the next generation, and to become people in the world who will foster that in others.

Being a Navajo mom is a source of strength and pride. It’s about resilience, adaptation, and instilling in my boys the courage to navigate the world with authenticity. Our traditions are not a relic of the past–they are a guiding light, illuminating the path forward.

So, this Thanksgiving, while our table may not be adorned with the typical fare, it will be rich with the flavors of Navajo tradition and the warmth of family. We’re redefining what it means to celebrate, forging our own narrative that honors the past while embracing the future.

To all the moms out there navigating the complexities of culture, identity, and tradition, I raise my virtual cup of Navajo tea to you. Together, we will raise the next generation with strength, love, and the enduring power of family.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.