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?
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