Celebrate the Origins of Thanksgiving By Visiting One of These Sacred Sites Across the Country

Learn about and honor the Native communities that shaped this meaningful holiday and our society as a whole.

Native American Veterans Memorial
Photo: Alan Karchmer

Feed your mind with facts about the people who made the first Thanksgiving happen. The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.—home to the Native American Veterans Memorial, which was designed by Harvey Pratt of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes—brims with artifacts, photos, and documents relating to Indigenous tribes from the Western Hemisphere. Whether through on-site events or via publications, the museum has highlighted voices and cultures from Native communities "in all their richness, depth, and diversity." Here, three more places to learn about this land's original residents.

Warner, New Hampshire

Walk the Medicine Woods Nature Trail and view treasures like beaded gloves and a birchbark canoe at the Mount Kearsarge Indian Museum, on 12.5 acres of Abenaki homeland. "Through partnership with Native peoples, exhibits, and workshops, Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum serves as a living center for artistic expression, traditional values, and contributions from past and contemporary Native life," the museum shares in its mission statement. "The Museum embraces cultural diversity and encourages environmental action based upon respect for nature and a deeper understanding of Native cultures."

Cherokee, North Carolina

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian shares 15,000 years of tribal history through animation, dioramas, and artifacts, including thousands of documents in Cherokee. The museum also sponsors the Warriors of AniKituhwa, a dance group that honors Cherokee Indians, as they bring "to life the Cherokee War Dance and Eagle Tail Dance," Lt. Henry Timberlake described in 1762, and are official cultural ambassadors by the Tribal Council of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Phoenix, Arizona

Along with traditional and contemporary art, the Heard Museum, founded in 1929, focuses on first-person stories, as in its "Away From Home" exhibit on Indian boarding schools. This details an often-overlooked time in United States' history, which began in the 1870s. American Indian children were trained to assimilate by attending government-operated schools that neglected their culture and took them away from their families, sometimes for years without contact, in order to become members of "civilized" society. The museum also hosts educational programming, festivals, and collaborates with American Indian artists and tribal communities for an authentic and "distinctive perspective about the art of Native people, especially those from the Southwest."

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