Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Making Peace with Thanksgiving

[ From Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Making peace with Thanksgiving," by Kery Murakami, November 17, 2008 ]

( Wampanoag home block cut image courtesy of )

James Rasmussen [ director of the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center] was matter-of-fact... when asked how he plans to celebrate Thanksgiving.

"Just like anybody else," he said.

But he knew the question implied more, because he is a member of the Duwamish, and he was helping build the tribe's new longhouse in West Seattle.

After all, Thanksgiving may be a day for turkey and football for many, but it marks the beginning of the end and more than a twinge of betrayal for early Native Americans who helped the Pilgrims survive.

Rasmussen knew there was a political facet to the question, he said. "But on the scale of things that bother me, like (the Duwamish) not being federally recognized, Thanksgiving is pretty low on the list."

Certainly, there will be some Native Americans who boycott the holiday, as Elliott Wolfe, a descendant of the Sioux and Chippewa tribes, said he once considered.

He was in high school and was trying to learn about his heritage.

"I started looking into the history and the negative stuff. You learn how much back stabbing there was, and you hear about all the horrible, horrible things that happened, and it just got a little depressing," said Wolfe, now a junior studying construction management at the University of Washington.

But he went to Thanksgiving dinner that year anyway. "Just because I felt bitter about the holiday didn't mean I wanted to ruin it for everybody."

For all the negative associations, Wolfe and other Native Americans say they've forged their own memories and their own meaning for Thanksgiving -- and none of it has to do with Pilgrims.

"We usually go to my aunt's house or my parents' house," he said. "We all get together and share stories. Me and my cousins usually get into mischief. We have a big dinner. There's so many of us, we can't fit at any one table."

Wolfe said: "I think for most American Indians, it's just a time to spend with family. But you have that thought in the back of your mind. You like getting together but you almost wish there was another reason."

There was another reason to go to the dinner -- at some point, he had to move on or be lost in bitterness. Eventually, he stopped being part of a study group with other Native American students.

"I was catching myself with pessimistic attitudes and negative thoughts. There was nothing I could do about mainstream society whitewashing the history. I could complain about how technically my family should own hundreds of acres in the Midwest. But I could get a good job and buy some of that land back."

But although Native Americans have tried to find meaning in Thanksgiving, the day and the way it's taught in schools still can be a sore spot...

Marty Bluewater, executive director of the United Indians for All Tribes, which offers social services and runs the Native American Daybreak Star Cultural Center in Discovery Park... said United Indians tries to focus on the broader idea of Thanksgiving: sharing...

On Thanksgiving, Bluewater, who is Shawnee and Choctaw, will be with his mother and his nephews. They will barbecue a turkey. And they'll say a few Native prayers. "I'll try to take the good parts and make it a time for sharing," he said.


Further resources:

Teaching About Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 13, 2008

NEA Booklist

To mark the 13th anniversary of Native American Heritage Month (November), the National Education Aassociation has released a recommended reading list for students in public schools that they call the "Native American Booklist." It is organized by grade level and includes fiction, non-fiction and poetry:

Grades K-4

* Baby Rattlesnake by Te Ata. Illustrated by Lynn Moroney. Children's Press (1991).
* A Boy Called Slow: The True Story of Sitting Bull by Joseph Bruchac. Putnam (1994)
* Crazy Horse's Vision by Joseph Bruchac. Illustrated by S.D. Nelson. Lee and Low Books (2000)
* The Boy Who Dreamed of an Acorn by Leigh Casler. Illustrated by Shonto Begay. Putnam Books (1994).
* Drumbeat?Heartbeat: A Celebration of the Powwow by Susan Braine. Lerner Publications (1995).
* Earth Daughter: Alicia of Acoma Pueblo by George Ancona. Macmillan (1995).
* Enduring Wisdom by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneave. Illustrated by Synthia St. James. Holiday House (2003).
* Full Moon Stories by Eagle Walking Turtle. Hyperion (1997).
* The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble. Bradbury (1978).
* Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Jake Swamp and Erwin Printup. Lee and Low Books (1995).
* The Good Luck Cat by Joy Harjo. Illustrated by Paul Lee. Harcourt (2000).
* Grandmother's Dreamcatcher by Becky Ray McCain. Albert Whitman and Company (1998).
* Grandmother's Pigeon by Louise Erdrich. Hyperion Books (1996).
* Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Illustrated by Cornelius Wright. HarperCollins (2000).
* Knots on a Counting Rope by John Archambault. Illustrated by Ted Rand. Owlet (1997).
* The Legend of the White Buffalo Woman by Paul Goble. Illustrated by Paul Goble. National Geographic (1998).
* Less Than Half, More Than Whole by Kathleen LaCapa. Illustrated by Michael LaCapa. Northland Press (1994).
* The Magic Hummingbird translated by Ekkehart Malotki, narrated by Michael Lomatuway'Ma. Illustrated by Michael Lacapa. Kiva (1996).
* Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joose. Illustrated by Barbara LaVallee. Chronicle Books (1998).
* A Man Called Raven by Richard Van Camp. Illustrated by George Littlechild. Children's Book Press (1997).
* Many Nations: An Alphabet of Native America by Joseph Bruchac. Illustrated by Robert F. Goetzi. Northland Publishers (1996).
* My Arctic 1,2,3 by Michael Kusagak. Illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka. Annick Press (1996).
* Powwow by George Ancona. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1993).
* Return of the Buffaloes by Paul Goble. Illustrated by Paul Goble. National Geographic (1996).
* Sing Down the Rain by Judi Moreillon. Illustrated by Michael Chiago. Kiva Publishing (1997).
* Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina by Maria Tallchief. Viking Press (1999).
* This Land is Your Land by George Littlechild. Children's Press (1993).
* What's the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses? by Richard Van Camp. Illustrated by George Littlechild. Children's Book Press (1998).
* When the Rain Sings by the National Museum of the American Indian. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers (1999).

Grades 5-8

* Arctic Memories by Normee Ekoomiak. Holt (1988).
* Arrow Over the Door by Joseph Bruchac. Dial (1998).
* The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich. Harper (1999).
* Children of the Sun: Stories by and About Indian Kids by Beverly Hungry Wolf. William Morrow (1998).
* Did You Hear Wind Sing Your Name? An Oneida Song of Spring by Sandra DeCoteau. Walker & Company (1995).
* Dancing Teepees: Poems of American Indian Youth by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneave. Holiday House (1988).
* Four Seasons of Corn: A Winnebago Tradition by Sally M. Hunter. Lerner (1997).
* Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith. HarperCollins (2002).
* Navajo: Visions and Voices Across the Mesa by Shonto Begay. Illustrated by Shonto Begay. Scholastic (1995).
* Northern Lights: The Soccer Trails by Michael Kusugak. Illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka. Annick Press (1993).
* The Path of the Quiet Elk by Virginia Stroud. Dial Books (1999).
* Pushing Up the Sky by Joseph Bruchac. Dial Books for Young Readers (2000).
* Rain is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith. HarperCollins (2001).
* Soul Would Have No Rainbow If the Eyes Had No Tears and Other Native American Proverbs by Guy A. Zona. Touchstone Books (1994).
* The Ways of My Grandmothers Beverly Hungry Wolf. William Morrow (1998).
* Wonderful Sky Boat and Other Native American Tales of the Southeast by Jane Louise Curry. Illustrated by James Watts. Margaret McElderry Books (2001).

Grades 9 and Up

* After and Before the Lightening by Simon Ortiz. University of Arizona Press (1994).
* Bloodlines: Odyssey of a Native Daughter by Janet Campbell Hale. University of Arizona Press (1993).
* Encyclopedia of American Indian Civil Rights by James Stuart Olson (editor), Mark Baxter (editor), Darren Pierson (editor), and Jason M. Tetzloff (editor). Greenwood (1997).
* Food and Spirits by Beth Brant. Oyate (1991).
* Full Moon on the Reservation by Gloria Bird. Greenfield Review Press (1998).
* A Gathering of Spirit: A Collection of North American Indian Women edited by Beth Brant. Firebrand Books (1989).
* Ghost Dance: New and Selected Poems by Dorise Seale. Oyate (2001).
* Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King. Bantam (1993).
* Here First: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers edited by Arnold Krupet. Modern Library (2001).
* House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday. University of Arizona Press (1966).
* The Joe Leaphorn Series by Tony Hillerman. HarperCollins. (1989-2002).
* Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie. HarperPerennial (1994).
* Power by Linda Hogan. W.W. Norton and Company (1999).
* Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac. HarperCollins (2001).
* Speaking for the Generations: Native Writers on Writing by Simon Ortiz. University of Arizona Press (1998).
* The Woman Who Watches the World by Linda Hogan. W.W. Norton and Company (2001).