How to Cultivate a Regenerative Thanksgiving by Honoring Land, People, & Planet

The Office of Sustainability recaps its November campaign on having a Regenerative Thanksgiving holiday.

Throughout the month of November, the Office of Sustainability shared information on how to cultivate a Regenerative Thanksgiving via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Tips and recipes were posted weekly to highlight Indigenous heritage, wisdom, and ingredients that honor the planet and its people. We hope you feel inspired by the various ways we can all create and foster regenerative and reparative practices this holiday season.

What is a Regenerative Thanksgiving?

While Thanksgiving represents a day of food and gratitude, it also serves as a stark reminder of America's colonial history and the continued marginalization of Indigenous people. Cultivating a Regenerative Thanksgiving means recognizing and honoring the contributions of Indigenous wisdom and heritage, including both traditional and modern Indigenous lessons on regenerative agriculture, sustainable food systems, and intentional eco-consciousness.

Often referred to as the first environmentalists, Indigenous cultures have long recognized and understood the interconnections between nature, self, and community. Such values are reflected in practices that promote sharing, regeneration, and sustainable living.

Recipe: Squash and Apple Soup

Kicking off our series of regenerative tips and recipes, we featured a cozy Squash and Apple Soup by Chef Sean Sherman, author of The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, and Beth Dooley, James Beard Award-winning food writer. As with all recipes created by Chef Sherman, this soup only uses ingredients native to North America and includes a bonus recipe on how to make your own corn stock out of leftover corn cobs — what a great way to reuse food scraps!

You can find the recipe here and be sure to check out The Sioux Chef, a collective of Indigenous leaders working to revitalize Native American cuisine.

Tip: Intentional Consumption

We tend to consume a lot more during the holiday season, whether that be food, gifts, or décor. Practicing intentional consumption by being mindful in our consumer decisions not only helps us reduce our own holiday ecological footprint but also honors the same practices and values that have long been ingrained in Indigenous cultures and wisdom. Three great ways to foster intentional consumption are to buy locally, seasonally, and resourcefully; below are just a few tips for each method that we hope can be a source of inspiration throughout the holiday season and beyond.

Buying locally:

  • Shop at farmer’s markets and locally owned businesses
  • Search for locally made products at stores
  • Browse online neighborhood marketplaces or join a local co-op/buying club

Buying seasonally:

  • Some fruits in season for November include apples, cranberries, grapefruit, and pears
  • Some vegetables in season for November include squash, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, and cabbage

Buying resourcefully:

  • Helpful questions to ask yourself when considering a purchase include:
    • Where did this item come from and where will it go?
    • Are there alternatives that don’t require purchasing a new item?
    • Are there other businesses that offer this item that I’d like to support more?

Recipe: Wild Rice Pilaf

Wild rice has been a staple food for generations of Indigenous Peoples and holds cultural, spiritual, and historical significance to various Native American communities. If you’ve never tried wild rice before, Mariah Gladstone’s Wild Rice Pilaf is the perfect dish to honor such an important grain, using seasonal ingredients such as apples, cranberries, and pecans. This dish can easily be made vegan/vegetarian by substituting chicken bone broth with vegetable broth and makes a great Thanksgiving side!

You can check out the recipe here and, if you’re looking for more recipe inspiration, head over to Gladstone’s Indigikitchen, an online cooking platform dedicated to re-indigenizing and decolonizing our diets.

Tip: Ditching Disposables

Minimizing waste is a key component of Indigenous wisdom and living harmoniously with nature. As the holiday season is often a time of increased consumption and greater waste, we can take the opportunity to find ways to cut down on trash by ditching disposables and opting for reusable replacements instead. Not only would this prevent disposables from ending up in landfills post-holiday, but the fact that you can keep using reusable items beyond the holidays is certainly a bonus!

Here are some easy swaps to consider:

  • Reusable utensils and dishware over disposable
  • Cloth napkins, dishtowels, and tablecloths that can be rewashed and reused
  • Reusing and upcycling decorations

Recipe: Blue Cornbread Stuffing

Bring a colorful twist to your stuffing by incorporating blue corn this Thanksgiving! Not only is blue corn a staple in southwestern Indigenous diets, but it also has spiritual significance, representing the beginning of life, wisdom, and understanding. Whether you’d like to enjoy blue cornbread as is or make it into a Thanksgiving stuffing dish, you can’t go wrong with Alana Yazzie’s Blue Cornbread Stuffing recipe.

Find the recipe here and check out Yazzie’s food and lifestyle blog at for even more delicious recipes, including additional blue corn dishes!

Tip: Honoring Indigenous Land

For many Indigenous communities, Thanksgiving is recognized as a National Day of Mourning, paying respect to the lives lost, displaced, and marginalized on the very land we reside on. Learning about the land and our place within its history is a great way to recognize and honor Indigenous Peoples as its traditional stewards and foster greater awareness of historical and ongoing injustices. 

Some other ways to honor Indigenous land include:

  • Curating a decolonized holiday menu, highlighting seasonal and indigenous ingredients
  • Supporting Indigenous farmers, distilleries, businesses, and nonprofits
  • Watching a documentary featuring Indigenous contribution to the environmental justice movement

Most importantly, we must recognize that honoring Indigenous land extends beyond a single holiday. One of the ways the Office of Sustainability recognizes and honors Indigenous Peoples as the land’s rightful and traditional stewards is through our Land Acknowledgment. You can read the full version here, which includes additional resources and information at the bottom. 

We hope these tips and recipes were a source of inspiration and reflection for you throughout the holiday season. And as we move beyond the holidays, we hope you're also inspired to continue incorporating regenerative and reparative practices in your day-to-day life. Thanks for tuning in!

Don’t forget to follow UMB’s Office of Sustainability on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also stay in the know by signing up for our monthly newsletter.

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