‘Effort to Heal’: Hundreds gather at a Portland Native American community garden on Thanksgiving

The community garden of the Native American Youth and Family Center in Portland’s Cooley neighborhood was teeming with volunteers who put aside traditional Thanksgiving plans to honor the Native community.

The Un-Thanksgiving event was created last year to offer an alternative to the Colonialism-centric holiday.

“There are so many colonial holidays that alter and invent stories of an American myth,” said organizer Mick Rose. They create a sense of ownership and lie about giving land rather than stealing land. This event is really about disinvestment from that narrative, because we know it’s not true.”

Volunteers are tasked with cleaning and rebuilding the garden, which includes many spaces for various native plants. The event runs on Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and anyone can contribute.

Rose, a member of the Denneh, Omaha, and Pawnee tribes, was grateful to see so many volunteers in the field and said it was a sign of goodwill in the community.

“Deinvestment doesn’t sound like, ‘Well, I’ll get friends instead,’” they said. “It means thinking about how we can invest in the health of people who’ve been hurt. Working on the Indigenous Lands Project is an effort to address that lie and that myth and that harm.”

Lucas Angus, a Nez Perce, came to volunteer with his family. It’s the second year he’s been attending the event, and he said it gives people time to reflect on the history of the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Having been a colonial holiday, it supports white power and a dominant society perspective,” said Angus. “Seeing so many people here gives hope that the future will be better for our people and for the land.”

Hundreds of people spilled out into the park, shoveling and moving rubble and laying out a walking path. They all worked together in the November sunshine to prepare the foundations for spring planting.

Joshua Vrdaszewski, accompanied by his wife and two daughters, said it was a great holiday realignment event.

“It’s good to change the traditional narrative into doing something positive for indigenous communities, reconnecting with the land,” he said. “Compared to last year, it’s huge. It’s gratifying to see so many people willing to help out on a day like this.”

– Austin De Deuce; [email protected]; (503) 319-9744

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