Native-american respectful family activity for Thanksgiving holiday
November 24, 2021 10:38 AM   Subscribe

What can I and my family do for the Thanksgiving holiday - that will be respectful to the Native-Americans and their reality of genocide and colonialism in the US. We are in a big US city in Northern California (near the coast) and we are a family of 4 adults and a young child (past toddlerhood).

I would prefer for it to not just be another holiday where I have a good time with my family. I am looking in terms of visiting a place of importance to Native Americans where we might learn more about Native-American culture/history/people. And/Or perhaps donate to Native-American causes which might be more effective? Ideally I would like to do both. Or should I spend my time educating myself on the cause. My current knowledge is very cursory.

I recall seeing a group pestle-mortar on a hike once. Something like that was a good starting point to educate our little one that with the stories they are not hearing about from friends + family + school surrounding thanksgiving.

I very recently got to know about the and their request for Shuumi. I haven't yet explored that. But that would be a place I would start.

I would like to know of other organizations/efforts like this too.
posted by alady to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure if you'll be able to get tickets this close to the date, but there is a Native American sunrise ceremony on Alcatraz that I attend every year.

They make a prayer that everyone is welcome to be part of, and there are traditional dances, songs, drumming, and talks. It is very moving, and a very different perspective on the holiday.
posted by ananci at 11:33 AM on November 24 [14 favorites]

As a kid in Los Angeles, I enjoyed learning about the Chumash and Tongva people local to my area, including the ways people have used the local plants for food, games children have played, and stories people tell. I'm glad I had that experience! It helped me grow up with my own connection to the place and with respect for its indigenous history and people.

If you're nearby, the East Bay Regional Parks District has some interpretive materials you may be able to use to set up a nature walk for your family where you can learn about these kinds of things together. This brochure takes a long time to load, but it has a lot of great high-level information, this page includes "Ohlone Programming" videos, and there's probably other stuff on their site too. Maybe check out the interpretive materials here and see if your local park has some relevant interpretive panels you could visit?
posted by dreamyshade at 12:40 PM on November 24 [3 favorites]

Also if you're near Oakland, a Native American restaurant just opened, Wahpepah's Kitchen! I went this weekend with friends, and it was nice. (Cafe Ohlone in Berkeley is also lovely, but it's only doing occasional events right now.)
posted by dreamyshade at 12:45 PM on November 24 [6 favorites]

I would suggest finding a language resource and learning a few key words together.

There are surprisingly good videos available on Youtube on specific Indigenous dance and music traditions as well, you can search for the local-to-you Indigenous nations.

The local public libraries may also have suggested activities. There_ is _an event at Menlo Park library: Vincent Medina (Muwekma Ohlone) and Louis Trevino (Rumsen Ohlone) co-founded mak-‘amham, an organization and restaurant focused on reviving and strengthening traditional Ohlone foods and sharing them with their communities, and educating the public of Ohlone culture through cuisine. [I saw 2 dates listed, one is for Mon Nov 29]

Another resource: UC Berkeley's Center for Educational Justice and Community Engagement has a helpful page, including a description/link to the present-day Muwekma Ohlone Tribe which "is comprised of surviving American Indian lineages aboriginal to the San Francisco Bay region who trace their ancestry through the Missions Dolores, Santa Clara, and San Jose; and who were also members of the historic Federally Recognized Verona Band of Alameda County. The homeland of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe includes the following counties: San Francisco, San Mateo, most of Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, and portions of Napa, Santa Cruz, Solano, and San Joaquin."
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:03 PM on November 24 [4 favorites]

There are some who advocate looking into serving a Native American group's recipe as part of the Thanksgiving meal. A lot of the foodstuffs we serve were native to these shores - but the way we've been preparing them have been very different from how the first residents of this country might have done. Trying a recipe that's from the people who originally lived where you live might be a reminder that the people who lived here first had a whole culture all their own, right down to having recipes and everything.

Plus, it's food, and food always gets people's attention.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:12 PM on November 24 [6 favorites]

Since 1970 the Wampanoag Tribe and the United American Indians of New England have declared Thanksgiving the 3d Thursday of November as a National Day of Mourning. Beginning at Noon east coast time, they will be live-streaming their annual protest to mark their opposition to the celebration of this date as a national “holiday” and its mythology. You can join the livestream and educate your family with Indigenous words spoken directly to the event and its mythology.

ETA here is the direct YouTube link for the livestream.

Many Indigenous Americans of course do celebrate the holiday, and Ive been present for it many times. As an elder I know once said, we would like to hold America to its stories.
posted by spitbull at 1:24 PM on November 24 [23 favorites]

Indigenous East Bay residents share how they acknowledge and commemorate Thanksgiving.

All five of these East Bay residents shared their personal family traditions for the fourth Thursday in November, as well as their thoughts on how non-Native people can do their best to support the Indigenous community every day of the year. We hope the thoughtful approaches they suggest will deepen, enrich and add nuance to your own family traditions.
posted by Toddles at 2:17 PM on November 24 [10 favorites]

If possible, money! Contribute to a scholarship fund for Indigenous students near you. The best activism isn't about feelings or awareness - we need to shift Money and Power into the hands of those from whom those things have been stolen or withheld. Making education more attainable explicitly shifts Money and Power - so every dollar you re-allocate can slightly rebalance the scales.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 3:55 PM on November 24 [4 favorites]

I will also mention that in the Arctic inuit communities I know best, Thanksgiving is celebrated by making it one of several annual days on which tons and tons of subsistence-hunted meat are distributed to every family in the community by the successful-in-fall hunting crews. All families in the community receive equal shares of an extremely important winter food supply. The entire day is given over to the work of doing this, in the community where I work in a church where it is accompanied by gospel singing and joyous sociability, followed by an American-style thanksgiving dinner in the evening. Inuit have conjoined American (and Canadian) holidays with their traditional calendar of celebratory holidays devoted to sharing food, the core value in Inuit culture being “feed others and they will feed you.” The resonance with the traditional American Thanksgiving mythology is not lost on any Inuit person I know — they say “of course we would have fed the hungry settlers. That is our way since time immemorial.”

The expectation of such exchange is reciprocity — it was in fact in the context of explaining this to me that the aforementioned elder spoke those words above, expressing an expectation of reciprocity from settler colonists that from the perspective of many Indigenous Americans simply has never come — quite the opposite, mass starvation (and pandemic disease, closely connected) has been a major feature of the Alaska Native experience of settlement and colonization over the last 150 years, certainly through the 1930s.

The elder in question was a man I loved dearly, and called a teacher. He died of COVID in September and I am still mourning his loss, as is his entire community. But if he were here he’d want to add to this conversation: go out and feed hungry people if you want to honor Indigenous ways of understanding the point of thanksgiving. Don’t go shopping. Don’t hoard your bounty. Find the poorest and hungriest people in your community and give without stinting or second thought. It is that simple.

He said the same thing about Christianity by the way (which faith he held deeply) — “we were Christian before we heard the word.”
posted by spitbull at 2:37 AM on November 25 [12 favorites]

The Old World version of Thanksgiving was the Harvest Supper or Erntedankfest or Dożynki. Basically the same thing as Thanksgiving but without the colonial perspective. The crops are all in so we have a church service with the church decorated up with samples of our best produce, and then our family and friends gather to have a big feast and probably drink a lot of beer. Often large donations to the local equivalent to the food bank are made. Once the harvest was in you could figure out how much you could spare, so not only did your tithe get taken to the church's tithe barn, but wagons would trundle down to the poorhouse or to your more distant connections that did not have a guaranteed claim of a first share.

Why not look into your Old World roots and figure out what type of Harvest Supper your remote ancestors would have held and adopt some of those traditions? Odds are you are not at all directly descended from pure Puritan lineage, so instead of the classic image of the couple in the Puritan hat and bonnet seated beside the First Nations individual with a feather band, try decorating with a sheaves and including dishes that come from some of the places your ancestors did. Irish pudding and perogies is a way of saying you are colonists without repeating the simplistic version of Thanksgiving that white washes the harm that was and is being done.

Part of any Thanksgiving is an acknowledgment of vulnerability. You might not have been able to afford a feast, you might have more holes in the family circle that you do. It's not hard to extend that awareness to prayers and contributions to those that cannot and should not celebrate.
posted by Jane the Brown at 12:56 PM on November 25

« Older Technical Services librarian wants a flex/telework...   |   best messaging app for private conversations Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments