An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
November 30, 2002 - Issue 75
its that time of year again, and may I say, it comes all to quickly
these days. We have barely put our pumpkins to rest, and finished off
the last of the Holloween candy before the stores have a mixture of
Pilgrims and Christmas trees on display. The commercials on TV are geared
towards gift giving and bankruptcy, with must have toys, electronic
gadgets, and jewelry, all with batteries sold separately.
Here in Minnesota, the landscape
is a lovely brown, with threatening skies of gray. Each day we wonder
if this is the day that the snow will arrive. Its cold and somewhat
gloomy, with morning frost on everything. I notice that morning prayers
are actually seen in my breath as they float upward. The frost sparkles
in the morning sun, and there seems to be a bit of echo in the air.
The birds line the fence and glare at the empty bird feeders. I believe
they are beginning to set up a schedule of winter feeding stops. I believe
my feeders are among the first on the list.
Shopping seems to replace summer
activities, and as the days melt away, it tends to become a bit frantic
filled with a mixture of emotions. The children mingle in the toy isles,
inspecting all the possibilities, while parents fill there carts with
everything from Turkey napkins to scented candles groaning every now
and then at price tags. In short, the children walk a little lighter,
and the parents walk a little heavier.
Being raised in a white family,
and now living in a traditional native home all to often causes enteral
conflict, and requires me to seek balance. However this time of year
is beyond doubt, the hardest. Thanksgiving of my childhood, bumps heads
with the facts I have grown to know. This holiday above all, is one
of the hardest for those of us that were engulfed in the white world.
My memory floats back my schools days and the preparations of each class.
The teacher would decide who were pilgrims and who were Indians. She
would assign each child to construct a custom made of colored construction
paper, bits of string, and if you were really lucky cardboard. The costumes
were simple and very effective for the performance of the Thanksgiving
Day play. The topic in most classrooms, of course, would be that now
famous dinner that red man and white man sat down to eat. Each sharing
what they had, and all enjoying the day with song, food, and friendship.
After the play, all would enjoy some watered down punch and hard cookies
while the parents mingled. The children drunk with the thought of no
school for several days, and the up coming feast and visiting realitives,would
run around adorned in paper feathers and cardboard buckles taped to
their shoes. None of us really had a clue why we celebrated this holiday,
and if asked the meaning of Thanksgiving we would reply quickly that
it was a time to be thankful period. If anyone really knew the ugly
hard truth, it was never brought up. So my childhood years were spent
oblivious to the true meaning of this day. I never gave it much thought.
As an adult, I have spent a lot
of time sorting out, trying to understand and realizing why I never
felt like I belonged. I went through motions, and lived each day as
best I could, but never really felt connected. Celebrating Thanksgiving
is very different for me now. We have a wonderful feast sharing it with
family and friends both here and those past. After dinner and as soon
as we can walk, we head to the annual pow wow held at the Indian Center
and overdose ourselves with drums, dancing and mingling. On occasion
discussions of those hard ugly facts would erupt, and yes, a few funny
remarks would be made. However the celebration would be in the same
spirit of the Thanksgivings of my childhood. The difference now is the
reasons for the celebrating.
It goes without saying, that
there is no one with buckles taped to their shoes, and that famous dinner
is rarely mentioned unless as a joke. We celebrate the feast, and are
thankful for our plenty. We celebrate each other and the common bond
that makes all our nations related. We celebrate our culture and its
dance of grace and beauty. But mostly, we remember and mourn those lost
people that were killed and branded savages. We mourn those ships that
brought the destruction of our way of life. We mourn the ugly truth
of deeds done, hidden, dormant.
The children of today, of all races, should not be robbed of the joys that holidays bring. They should not be laden with heavy truths and burdens of guilt. However, I for one believe that the truth should be an automatic part of their lives. The true story of that day so long ago should be and needs to be told. Hopefully among our children the seed of right, honor, and decency will be planted. But mostly, the opportunity to learn from past mistakes might be the greatest gift of all. Peace
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