What does Thanksgiving mean for Native Americans?

Posted: 7:00 PM EST Nov 22, 2012   Updated: 9:03 AM EST Nov 23, 2012

For Carla Messinger, director of Native American Heritage programs and descendant of the Lenape tribe, Thanksgiving is more of a season of gratitude rather than celebrating one particular day, and she says it's been that way for centuries especially for native people.

“For the Lenape people here, our Thanksgiving is when the harvest is done,” said Messinger.

So what about Thanksgiving?

The day millions of Americans sit around the table eating turkey and all the fixings, a tradition historians say dates back to the early 1600's when the pilgrims first celebrated the "good harvest" alongside Native Americans.

“Some native people will celebrate it, some won't. Some consider it a day of mourning, others consider it a day to teach other people who aren't Native American about native points of view,” Messinger said.

And it's the Native American  point of view Messinger says she fears will soon be lost unless parents and educators put forth an effort to share with their children the country's history.

“Textbooks went from an entire chapter on Native people before European invasion and now it's down to a few pages in the chapter and soon it will be a paragraph in the chapter,” said Messinger.

Regardless of when it's celebrated, Messinger said the meaning behind Thanksgiving shouldn't be one that is lost. Instead she said every holiday -- especially Thanksgiving -- should be used to instill knowledge and tradition in the younger generation, no matter what our cultural background.

“To share, to be proud of your culture, to know that you're going to be able to pass something along to your children,” she said.

November is Native American Heritage month and Friday is a national holiday for Native Americans.

Ffor more information on Native American Heritage programs or the Lenape tribe you can visit their website.