All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey… actually the foliage is awash with color but it is time for the annoying trilogy of holidaze that vex us as Natives. Ah yes, ‘tis the season of Columbus Day, Halloween and the American Thanksgiving. This trifecta of annoying events makes me SMH in befuddlement at the ignorance, crass behavior and borderline bigotry of those that continue the misanthropic adherence to the myths, rituals and customs of these celebrations. This edition of André’s dialectic diatribe has to suffice for my more usual dispersal of numerous emails regarding the ongoing antics of the autumnal season. So here goes…
Columbus Day: Let it go! Whether or not you support the change over from lauding a lost explorer to honoring Natives by declaring it Indigenous Peoples Day, it is time to put this disagreeable remembrance behind us. Good ol’ Cap’n Chris didn’t discover anything. He was the harbinger of a genocide that decimated the Native nations of this hemisphere. His happenstance landing upon the Carribian shores heralded the manifest destiny mania that followed some 100 years later that swept our people into mass graves. Calendars should be free of his presence. ‘Nuff said.
Halloween on the other hand certainly is an occasion to enjoy. Who could deny that free candy and scary movies aren’t something we all have enjoyed at one time or another. Despite the diabetic implications Natives like to participate in the usual activities of decorating their houses with ghosts and goblins, distributing copious amounts of sweets and dressing up in fanciful disguises. Alas, the frivolity of the day gets corrupted annually when people choose to cross the line between wearing good natured costumes and deciding to denigrate an entire race of people by dressing up as a “poke-a-hottie”, or a native brave replete with faux leather breech cloth and painted turkey feathers in a plastic headdress. Donning the purported garb of what Hollyweird tells us what Native peoples ought to look like. This only serves to marginalize our people. Even though there is an outcry every year about the racist nature of these costumes, there are always stores selling to patrons who willingly shell out money to project that NDN vibe. They should go spend a week at DAPL if they wanna have the aboriginal experience. This year’s pledge to be stereotype free, go as something truly scary, Donald Trump.
Thanksgiving is full of romanticized notions of two peoples coming together to share in the bounty of the harvest. Sitting around a ravaged turkey carcass singing kum ba yah was definitely not the origins of this seasonal football fest. Massachusetts Bay Colonial Governor William Winthrop proclaimed the first official “Day of Thanksgiving” in 1637. The reason for this celebration? The festivities were held to mark the recent success of the Pequot massacre. Apparently the Gov’nah felt the need to commemorate the slaughter of nearly 700 men, women and children. Serve that with a slice of pumpkin pie, (I like extra dream whip on my piece).
This is indeed as good a time as any to show gratitude for having lived another year and that hopefully you are surrounded by loved ones and are in good health. As Native people we are encouraged to be thankful, to be mindful of the good in the world. As you pass through each day, give thanks to your ancestors for their courage and perseverance; know that wherever you are the soil under your feet is the land of some Tribe and is sacred, and remember that you are a role model. Give thanks to Creation for giving us the food and natural environment we need to sustain ourselves. Save the drumstick for me please.
Just my two dentalias’ worth.
Andre Cramblit is a Karuk Tribal Member from the Klamath and Salmon rivers in northwest California and the Operations Director of the Northern California Indian Development Council. He lives with his wife Wendy and son Kyle in Arcata, California.