Forty of our youth leaders and staff came together last weekend to dig deep into understanding the myth of the Thanksgiving story and learn the truth about Native American history and culture from members of Yolo County’s Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.
Students from Kent, Tacoma, the San Francisco Bay Area, Yolo County and Sacramento California, spent time with Yocha Dehe Language and History Associate, Dillon McKay and Cultural Resources Manager Laverne Bill to learn about the importance of Native Sovereignty and the role of cultural values in American democracy.
McKay and Bill spoke to the group about many aspects of Yocha Dehe culture, including preservation of its language and oral history, governance, dance, food and agriculture, cultural resources/archaeological sites and the roles of tribal members in community.
Dillon emphasized that, “Our cultures may be diverse, but we share values. We all have one thing in common: we all want to make this a better place.”
Bill added, “We’re no longer living in a world where we are isolated from each other based on our color or our culture—we’re are evolving from that–and people need to understand each other. Your family and your community raised you to be who you are and to express yourself through your culture and heritage.
”The dynamic Days of Gratitude course accomplishes three significant goals. First, students, staff and community members study the history of “Thanksgiving”, deconstructing false narratives of “the first Thanksgiving.” In addition, the group studies Native Sovereignty and self-government. Finally, participants dig deep into the psychological, political, economic and cultural value of gratitude and particularly its fundamental role in the Civil Rights Movement and in making positive social change.
We are honored, humbled and deeply grateful to the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and to Dillon McKay and Laverne Bill. They generously shared their cultures, histories, traditions and explained the concept of native sovereignty and self-governance. We have much to learn as a democracy from their generational examples of sovereignty, community and civic engagement.