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Guilford County Native American family shares perspective on Thanksgiving

For Jennifer Revels-Baxter and her family, Thanksgiving is a time to remember honor their ancestors.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Thanksgiving is a holiday about many things--food, family, gratitude and history. 

Each family's celebration is a little different from the next but for the most part, we take the day to consider those values. WFMY News 2's Grace Holland met a family among those who put a special focus on the last one--history.

Jennifer Revels-Baxter is among those hosting friends and family at her Greensboro home with all the fixings laid out.

"We've been able to spend more time together with COVID improving and that's been really nice," Revels-Baxter said.

She and her sister Polly Cox grew up in Guilford County.

"In many ways, I would have to say that we're pretty typical of most American families gathering today," Revels-Baxter said.

There are some holiday customers that never fit.

"As a kid, you dressed up as a pilgrim or Indian and I was like, 'I'm already an Indian," Cox said.

They are members of the Lumbee Tribe. Revels-Baxter is also a board member for the Guilford Native American Association, a group their parents helped found in 1975.

They said the first Thanksgiving story many of us heard as children, isn't the full picture. Many in their tribe, dating back centuries, experienced racism and oppression.

That's why some observe the last Thursday in November as a day of mourning. For Revels-Baxter and her family, its a time to honor their ancestors.

"Many look at it as a day of mourning and I want to look at it as a day of celebration that we are still here. We're still celebrating," Cox said.

Cox said she's encouraged because historical awareness of the holiday seems to have gained more attention in recent years. Still, they believe there's more work to be done.

"We're not just here during Thanksgiving or here in October opposing Columbus. We are contributing to this country 365 days a year, 24/7," Revels-Baxter said. "Not only nationwide, but right here in the Piedmont Triad community and particularly through the Guilford Native American Association."

The Guilford Native American Association said it serves 6,000 Native Americans in the Triad through education and advocacy.

The group holds a Pow Wow every September in Country Park and has an art gallery in the Greensboro Cultural Center.

Revels-Baxter said two major issues they are focusing on now are the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Movement as well as awareness about historical mistreatment in Native American Boarding Schools.

She hopes having honest conversations about these types of concerns will lead to greater understanding and a true celebration of unity.

"Just as this ear of corn needs all of these different colors, in order to be complete, so does our country and our world need all of mankind," Revels-Baxter said.