Thursday, November 27, 2008

Short Story - My View of Thanksgiving

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii's View of Thanksgiving
~ a poetic, creative, fiery mantra and chant ~

A gravy bowl hodgepodge escapade around the dining room table. Ecstasy found in giving thanks to family and friends. Welcoming gifts of love and giving thanks. The Mayflower, Plymouth Rock, class room Indian and Pilgrim skits and dress up are all a part of our history in the USA. A fairy tale painting of the Indian and Pilgrim getting along in a harvest celebration is the classroom sermon that was given out to many of us in our formative elementary years.

As someone with Ojibway heritage I have a much different story. My class mates in elementary school poured over the table digging through markers, crayons, plastic colored feathers and construction paper to make a headdress. I didn't pour over the table. I often got mad at people saying the word, "Indian" around me. When I heard someone say it I quickly gathered what I needed to make my headdress and headed back to my desk. I gazed out the window, looking at the tall oak trees that surrounded my elementary school. As we acted out the first Thanksgiving celebration in our classroom I acted out being "Indian" but was the real "Indian." I am on display in front of 20 class mates. I shake nervously as I am the real "Indian." A teacher asks, "What are you Cecelia?" I quietly reply, "Chippewa." (I didn't know to say Ojibway at the time because of being disconnected from the culture) School lets out and I escape the two story brick building quickly. With my olive-golden-brown skin and long dark brown hair flowing in the wind as a skip across the playground. I walk quickly home crunching leaves beneath my feet. The land beneath my feet and the tall trees make me feel better. When I arrive home my Mother greets me at the door and I proudly wear my headdress around the house until it is time to go to bed. I am an "Indian," a real "Indian."

Years later I understand this situation that happened in elementary school better. As a young girl I had this urging in my soul to run away from that school after that day. I was hurt deep down because no one saw me that day except probably my Mother. I felt no one saw me because no one really saw, knew or spoke to a Native person in my elementary school. I had been deeply affected because of the underlying issues, traumas, conflicts, wounds and burdens that would unfold in my teens and early twenties. I realized that my behavior on a day like this was not about celebration but wounding. Wounding because of annihilation. My family, relatives and ancestors were deeply affected by the genocide and annihilation of our people. Although the Ojibway are the third largest tribe in the USA that does not mean anything to me as it may mean to someone compiling a statistical chart. My ancestors not only went through a physical annihilation but a spiritual and emotional annihilation. Basically a complete annihilation of the self.

Now we spend years rebuilding our communities and selves. We do years of inner work and healing so we can live in mainstream society as empowered Ojibway people. But, we are supposed to give thanks. I am going to give thanks. I have an amazing life. I have a loving family, dozens of wonderful friends, amazing people I have met in the blog world, I am educated and I have a plethora of unique gifts and talents. I truly from the bottom of my heart have sincere gratefulness for everyone and everything that lifts and sustains me in this world.

What brings deep sorrow to my everyday life is this wounds our souls, lives, land and country that still needs healing. On a holiday like Thanksgiving we need a cultural shift in consciousness about what a day like this truly means. We need to truly honor and respect the Native people. We need to honor and respect the traditions of all Native people. Also, this holiday needs to be a holiday of healing. What can we do to heal what has happened to Native people and remains unhealed within all of us? How can Thanksgiving be a time of respect, honor and healing? What are some of your ideas? How can we fully integrate these changes into this holiday?

Stories and News...

American Indians reflect and mourn on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving a loaded holiday for many American Indians.

Alcatraz Thanksgiving, perfect start to the day.

A Different View of Thanksgiving.

An Oneida Thanksgiving celebration.

AlterNet - No Thanks to Thanksgiving.


Mberenis said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you & your blog readers! I love black friday. I did some research, and have all of my shopping preplanned to maximize savings! You would be surprised what kind of deals are out there, if you search for them.

Custom Black Friday Sales Search

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Thank you for the link but I plan on participating in Buy Nothing Day -

glennishamorgan said...

This was very well written Cecelia.This should be put into a compilation book or something on Thanksgiving.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Glennisha - Thanks and thank you for the idea! This would be a good book to compile Native stories on the view of Thanksgiving. Maybe I could put out a call for submissions. I am sure I would get a lot of pieces!

dollyspeaks said...

Wow... I'm in awe. I think a shift in consciousness would be perfect for Thanksgiving. After all, we have days (2, I believe) for honoring our Veterans... why don't we have at least 1 day for honoring the people who have always been here?

I think the first thing we would have to do is start reforming the "edumucation" of our younger students. Because, as both you and I have experienced, Thanksgiving often gets limited to feathers on paper bag hats and big turkey feasts between the "pure" pilgrims and the "wild Indians." This desire to preserve *white* children's innocence is not new, but the reality of history ends up being terribly skewed in our minds. And I know I wasn't the only white kid's brow who crinkled when I was later informed of the "real" story. It's not preserving innocence--it's pampering the white privilege of historical skepticism. So, I think a change in how we teach America's early history in the elementary school classroom would be beyond refreshing.

You know, a national address on the issue would be nice too *cough* President Obama *cough* If the entire country were made aware of the issues that face Natives today, if we allowed people like Winona to speak on a national platform, then maybe we could really change what this holiday is about. *Sigh* I don't know when that will happen, but I think you've definitely done your teaspoon work today, Cecilia. I'm lookig at Thanksgiving in a new light now.

Sloth Womyn said...

Thank you for sharing that childhood memory. I honor and bless that little girl who felt so "other". May she find healing and continue to bring us wisdom. Blessed Be.

I think the Thankfulness and family gathering of the Holiday is a wonderful thing. Although the Wiccan thanksgiving is Autumn Equinox, one can't put a limit on giving thanks, I guess. However, I believe that there should be at least a moment to recognize that the land was taken, and that many people suffered because of it, and that many people still suffer from oppression today. There should be some sort of official government ceremony that takes place, honoring the Native Peoples and honoring their loss. I wonder what kind of change in consciousness it would take for people to do something so simple as that. Last year, I read a speech given by a Native American Elder about Thanksgiving at the dinner table, and my family actually got upset at me for reading it. To me, it seemed like such an odd reaction.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

I am glad you are looking at Thanksgiving in new light. Thats really what we need to do in this country. Of course be thankful and grateful for the everyone and everything in your life. But, we need to honor the Native peoples of this land. This is very crucial on many levels so this nation can move forward and heal as a whole.

It really is pampering of white privilege. It is like, 'look at what good things we have done,' while brushing aside the genocide, rape of women and rape of the land. It has been long overdue to hear the other side of the story which holds more of the truth of what really happened.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Sloth Womyn - I did not see your comment earlier so I am commenting now. Yes, I have been doing so much inner child work. It really is important to go back and do the healing work for me when I was a kid. That is strange that your family got upset at you for reading that speech. I am sure it is possible to have a ceremony of the like started. I feel it would take a lot because people really want to hear the nice story when it is important to honor the wounds and darkness for healing. What do you think?

SeBentley said...

I don't know if this is something that you'd like to hear, but my family (who was here among the first white colonies and contributed slaughter native american indians) recognizes that on thanksgiving we are celebrating the genocide of indigenous peoples. Which is probably why we instead use thanksgiving to celebrate our family and being together, as opposed to the first pilgrims.

I'm curious to hear, what kinds of things would you recommend to get people to understand what happened? Better history classes, to teach awareness of the genocide that took place in the US? (I know mine were rather lacking in that aspect...)

SeBentley said...

And, also, what I mean by "celebrating the genocide" is less in the celebrating of a genocide and more in recognition of the genocide that happened and that thanksgiving was NOT a happy thing.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

SeBentley - I am glad your family recognizes the genocide that happened here in this country. Some people do not recognize it at all and that is sad. Its great to celebrate with family and friends, thats always wonderful!

You know I am not 100% Ojibway so I am mixed. Anyway, I was celebrating Thanksgiving with my Aunt (my Mom's sister) and Uncle one year. My Uncle's family was reading out of a book about their direct connection to the Mayflower. I listened to their story with openness because I thought it was cool to hear about this from them. I did speak up and say that I have Ojibway heritage and spoke a little about how I feel about Thanksgiving. To my surprise it was a pleasant exchange because the conversation was met with openness and we all had a willingness to hear both stories. I am familiar to meeting and being directly related to people who are connected to genocide and annihilation so it is cool that you replied this post.

As for what we need to do and I have mentioned this above in various replies is to have conversations that heal. In healing we need to listen to both sides and all perspectives of how we saw things happen. I also agree that better education in regards to teaching the truth in history. Giving more voice to Native issues in this country instead of pushing things under would also be of great help.

What are some of your ideas?

liz said...

My family is White. I remember the kinds of grade school activities you mention, from my childhood in the 70s. I probably didn't know how misleading that information was until my teens. Do schools even still do that?! Amazing.

I intend that my son will know about the real history behind the holiday and honor the experiences of others. And not buy into the paper headdress thing. (Nor Black Friday tramplings, thanks very much!)

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Liz - Thank you for your response! I was in grade school in the 1980's/early 90's and it was pretty much the same for me. I think schools still do this for the most part with minor changes.

I am glad that you intend to tell your son the real history while honoring others experiences. This is really what we all need to do. The world will be much better off for all of us.

Susan said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Susan - Hey, thanks for stopping by and I am glad you like it here!

D. Scribe said...

Hi. Thank you for sharing this story. I am looking for accessible material to share with my children in order to teach them the significance behind many of the widely accepted "holidays and celebrations" they hear about in school. I am going to share your story with them.

Anishinaabekwe said...

D. Scribe - Glad you like my story! Go right ahead and share away! Peace!