Holiday brings food donations - and mixed feelings - at homeless encampment

Donations of food and clothes flooded into the Minneapolis homeless encampment on Thursday for Thanksgiving.

The mostly Native American residents and volunteers were grateful for the outpouring of support, which included donations of turkey, venison, wild rice and other food. But many at the encampment do not celebrate the holiday because of its historical connection to massacres of native people.

Khaloni Freemont, a volunteer at the encampment, referred to the holiday as "Thanks-taking."

"The reason I don't celebrate it is because on Thanksgiving many years ago there was a tribe that saw a bunch of colonizers and they couldn't fend for themselves — they didn't know how to cook, clean, grow their own crops — so the tribe went to their village and helped them ... and then they invited the Native Americans to dinner, and when they invited them to the dinner they killed 300 men, women, and children," Freemont said.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

To mark the day, Freemont said she and her family fast for 24 hours.

As temperatures hovered in the mid-30s on Thursday, there were fires going at the encampment for warmth. A group of volunteers put up a new tent for one of the elders.

At the nearby Minneapolis American Indian Center, the 2018 Thanksgiving Celebration and Powwow started Thursday night and continues through Saturday. The event features traditional dances, prayers and food.

Reuben Crowfeather is the master of ceremonies, and he said the national holiday offers an opportunity to celebrate the Native community.

"So we have a powwow here at the Minneapolis American Indian Center so that we can continue our tradition, our own traditions of thanksgiving, our own tradition of prayer, our own tradition of community. And we as Native American people, we do this through song and dance," he said.

The event is free and open to the public.