Shuck and Jive

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Loaded Holiday

From Thanksgiving: A Loaded Holiday for Many Native Americans
"Liberals want us to mourn and be angry or feel bad about commemorating our own cultural death," Rolo said. "Meanwhile conservatives blame us for our condition. Can you imagine having to sit around a Thanksgiving table with those folks telling us how to be while trying to digest a meal?"
Here is a good resource from Chuck Larsen of the Tacoma School District: Teaching About Thanksgiving
For an Indian, who is also a school teacher, Thanksgiving was never an easy holiday for me to deal with in class. I sometimes have felt like I learned too much about "the Pilgrims and the Indians." Every year I have been faced with the professional and moral dilemma of just how to be honest and informative with my children at Thanksgiving without passing on historical distortions, and racial and cultural stereotypes.

The problem is that part of what you and I learned in our own childhood about the "Pilgrims" and "Squanto" and the "First Thanksgiving" is a mixture of both history and myth. But the THEME of Thanksgiving has truth and integrity far above and beyond what we and our forebearers have made of it. Thanksgiving is a bigger concept than just the story of the founding of the Plymouth Plantation. (Read More)
He recommends the book, The Invasion of America by Francis Jennings.

Traditionally, historians have thought of American society as a transplantation of European culture to a new continent—a "virgin land." In this important and disturbing book, Francis Jennings examines the real history of the relationships between Europeans and Indians in what is ordinarily called the colonial period of United States history. From the Indian viewpoint, it was the period of the invasion of America.

In Mr. Jennings' view, the American land during the period of discovery and settlement was more like a widow than a virgin. "Europeans did not find wilderness here," he writes, "rather, however involuntarily, they made one. . . . The so-called settlement of America was a resettlement, a reoccupation of a land made waste by the diseases and demoralization introduced by newcomers."

Basing his interpretations on an enormous amount of hitherto unused ethnographic and anthropological literature, Mr. Jennings summarizes what is now known about the Atlantic Coast Indians encountered by Europeans. He then concentrates on a single region, New England, as an illustrative case study. The result is a radically revisionist interpretation of Puritan history (both as the Puritans wrote and lived it) in relation to the aboriginal population.

For today and every day, A Thanksgiving Prayer from the Iroquois (Seneca) People

Gwa! Gwa! Gwa!
Now the time has come!
Hear us, Lord of the Sky!
We are here to speak the truth,
for you do not hear lies,
We are your children, Lord of the Sky.

Now begins the Gayant' gogwus
This sacred fire and sacred tobacco
And through this smoke
We offer our prayers
We are your children, Lord of the Sky.

Now in the beginning of all things
You provided that we inherit your creation
You said: I shall make the earth
on which people shall live
And they shall look to the earth as their mother
And they shall say, "It is she who supports us."
You said that we should always be thankful
For our earth and for each other
So it is that we are gathered here
We are your children, Lord of the Sky.

Now again the smoke rises
And again we offer prayers
You said that food should be placed beside us
And it should be ours in exchange for our labor.
You thought that ours should be a world
where green grass of many kinds should grow
You said that some should be medicines
And that one should be Ona'o
the sacred food, our sister corn
You gave to her two clinging sisters
beautiful Oa'geta, our sister beans
and bountiful Nyo'sowane, our sister squash
The three sacred sisters; they who sustain us.

This is what you thought, Lord of the Sky.
Thus did you think to provide for us
And you ordered that when the warm season comes,
That we should see the return of life
And remember you, and be thankful,
and gather here by the sacred fire.
So now again the smoke arises
We the people offer our prayers
We speak to you through the rising smoke
We are thankful, Lord of the Sky.

(Liberally translated)
Chuck Larsen, Seneca


  1. John, you might like to visit this website:

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving! or Be Grateful for a Plateful of Tofu day