In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, the Students’ Indigenous Circle of Flagstaff organized a march,“No thanks, no giving,” to Flagstaff City Hall Nov. 17, one week before Thanksgiving. Students involved said they were there to protest colonialist holidays. 

Led by student ambassador Kaly Arvizu, people dressed in orange marched in protest of several issues such as NAU’s Flagstaff mountain campus having ties with the Arizona Snowbowl and raising awareness about historical inaccuracies around Thanksgiving. 

“It’s to bring awareness to colonial holidays like Thanksgiving and why we should boycott them, as well as other issues going on in Indian country right now,” Arvizu said. 

The origin of Thanksgiving is a story about pilgrims and the Wampanoag people celebrating a successful harvest with a large feast. Traditionally, it is shared as a story about coexistence and unity between different cultures. 

Beyond giving thanks and spending time with loved ones, many commonly shared narratives about the founding of Thanksgiving have been proven by historians to be myths. When the Wampanoag leader Ousamequin reached out to the English at Plymouth to ask for an alliance, several natives had already been killed by disease. 

Protesters at the “No thanks, no giving” march said while they would not be celebrating the holiday in its traditional sense, the time off school and work should still be used to show appreciation for loved ones. 

“My family is very traditionally Navajo, so when the holiday comes around, we all have time off work and school anyways, and we just come together,” Arvizu said.

At 2 p.m., students and Flagstaff locals gathered outside the University Union to make signs and rally supporters. Once a volunteer was able to find a last minute megaphone and batteries, the group organized to start marching. Around 3 p.m., they began making their way through Downtown Flagstaff. 

Arvizu said although the protest was planned in conjunction with the Indigenous Circle of Flagstaff, the march was organized entirely by students. 

“It’s all a big farce, history is written by conquerors, so truly educate yourself on what Thanksgiving is about,” Arvizu said “Just decolonize, decolonize, decolonize, I can’t say that enough.”

Throughout the week, NAU’s Indigenous Ambassadors planned events for students to celebrate Native American heritage. After the protest, Arvizu attended an event where she honored the students elected to be ambassadors in 2023. 

Members from the Black Student Union (BSU) and Somos Unidos also attended the event to speak about solidarity between minority groups on campus.

Junior Griffin Fitch was just one of the students from BSU at the march. Fitch said it is important for minority groups to support each other because they all are in a similar situation.

“The best way for us to have power is for us to all be together,” Fitch said. “People want us to be separate but we can work better and get more done together.”

Raised in a predominantly Hispanic area in Mesa, Fitch said being a student at NAU was a culture shock.

“I knew there would be a lot of white people, but this is so much more than I expected,” Fitch said. “I don’t ever feel like my voice is represented. That’s why I’m in BSU.”

Around 30 people attended the protest. Fitch said although they were hoping for a bigger turnout, they were happy to see all kinds of different people attend. It was  a level of diversity Fitch said he feels is not represented on campus.

Moreover, Fitch said they would not be using their time off school to celebrate Thanksgiving in a traditional way.

“I think of it as a time to be appreciative and thankful, but that could just be me justifying this thing that I’ve been told to celebrate my whole life,” Fitch said. 

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, Flagstaff City Hall placed a large flag on the lawn. The protestors gathered in front of it and offered the megaphone to anyone who wanted to share a few words. 

Standing in 30 degree weather on a cloudy and windy day, the crowd listened to speakers address issues faced by the local Indigenous community. In the background, cars passing by honked in support.

Once the speakers finished, the group disbanded with some staying on the lawn outside Flagstaff City Hall to hold up signs and chant.

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