The Cougar Chronicle

Thanksgiving as a Native American

Adrianna Adame, News Reporter

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, marking the official beginning of the holiday season.

 

I have always celebrated Thanksgiving, the stereotypical American way: watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, eating a big dinner with my family with the traditional assortment of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and yams and then going black Friday shopping.

 

I am part Native American, one of the 5,700 members of the Chippewa Cree Tribe from the Rocky Boy Reservation in Montana. However, I haven’t been to the reservation to see the Native American side of my family since I was a baby.

 

I have no recollection of any of the traditions that my tribe practices, since I was never around other members of my tribe or knew any other Native Americans until college.

 

At times, I wondered if I should feel conflicted about celebrating Thanksgiving, considering the true history of what happened after the Thanksgiving in 1621. I was sick of the fabricated tale of friendship between Native American and the Pilgrims that I had been told since kindergarten.

 

Rape, genocide and severe mistreatment of the Virginian Native Americans was brought upon by the Pilgrims, who had been saved from starvation by the Native Americans themselves. The pain of the Native American tribes affected by this horrendous and bloody past still lingers.

 

As I got older, I decided that I wanted to learn what my tribe does for Thanksgiving. I reached out to my family and asked whether or not Thanksgiving is something that Native Americans celebrate.

 

My grandma (great aunt) Iris Buffalo, who lives on the reservation, told me that some people from our tribe don’t celebrate Thanksgiving due to the past, but most people get together with friends and family to enjoy each other’s company with a meal after saying prayers.

 

Grandma Iris told me that the prayers consist of “giving thanks for home, family, good health and having food on the table.” In the past, prayers were said in our native language of Cree.

 

Grandma Iris also told me about how the Thanksgiving meal usually consists of “turkey with trimmings… some [people] that can’t afford turkey will eat dried deer meat [with] potatoes and fry bread, berries and tea.”

 

I have been told by other members of my family that our reservation has a strong sense of community, so Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy the company of each other.

 

While reconnecting with members from the Native American side of my family, I have acquired a deeper understanding of this bittersweet holiday. I am now more aware of the pain that some in my tribe feel, but also now have an understanding about the importance of community in my tribe during Thanksgiving.

 

To some, Thanksgiving is still a gruesome reminder of a tragic past. For others in my tribe, Thanksgiving is a time of year to get together to be grateful for the simple, yet important things in life.

 

I will continue to celebrate Thanksgiving as I have, but with more awareness and appreciation, considering the truth behind the holiday.

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