By VIVIAN CARROLL
Gathering with family and friends to cook and eat is the top reason the IAIA community celebrates the upcoming holiday. In an online survey available to the entire IAIA community, students, faculty, staff and administration, 87 respondents shared how they celebrated or didn’t celebrate the traditional American Thanksgiving.
The following comments are typical responses: “My family does not observe anything traditional about Thanksgiving. We will eat, go to a powwow or some Native cultural event or just visit with family.” “I don’t observe Thanksgiving as a holiday. I observe it as a way of life.”
The most mentioned persona non-grata dinner guest came as no surprise. “I don’t celebrate the traditional Indian and pilgrim thing.” “We don’t observe the feasting with the pilgrims definition of Thanksgiving.” “I don’t give a $#!* about the pilgrim stuff/first Thanksgiving myth.”
Seeking a positive tomorrow, some offered their thoughts on ways to overcome the past’s difficulties. “I would like to see more honoring of the Natives who made Thanksgiving possible, not just a passing mention with all the fuss about the Pilgrims.” “I want to find some way not to forget how Native Americans were treated, find ways of making amends in the future and promoting equality.”
Tongue-in-cheek humor also found its way into the survey responses. “We celebrate ”˜Happy Squanto Day’ or ”˜Misgiving Day’.” “Just another dark day for the Wampanoag,” said another.
Ways to Celebrate
Dropped off at an orphanage, a thankful respondent shared loving words for the parents who took her in. “I thank the Creator who gave me a family that cared enough to sacrifice of themselves and put food on the table that I shared with them and gave me shelter when I needed it.”
Other ways to celebrate Thanksgiving include going to dances, watching football, starting the morning with prayer and qigong movement, thinking about ancestors, and going to a 12-step meeting.
Some are making new traditions that are heartwarming. “We have a gratitude dinner; we invite friends and family to cook together, enjoy the harvest, and express gratitude for our community and abundance in our lives. We also collect food for our local food drive to share with the less fortunate.”
I Just Eat”¦
IAIA’s community serves up a smorgasbord of delicious foods. Pumpkin pie rates as the favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner followed by turkey. A variety of unique meals are also offered by our survey takers. “We try to cook traditional foods like deer stew, blue corn mush, wild spinach and wild mushrooms.”
“We make the usual: turkey, potatoes, bread, pie, and the not so usual: chile, beans, tortillas, empanadas.”
The menu served up by an Alaskan Native includes turkey and mashed potatoes, plus baked halibut, crab, shrimp, king salmon, lots of fish eggs, seaweed and a good amount of rice. Yum!
At Ohkay Owingeh, one family shares chile and beans, Mom’s tortillas, and soda pop. Another person wrote, “I love when it’s a potluck and we get to taste everyone’s cooking.”
Other favorite foods include green bean casserole, green chile, red chile stew, tamales, tofu and salmon, and yams with marshmallows.
This Special Season
IAIA’s diverse community has many reasons for believing this season is special””or not.
“The Pueblo I’m from traditionally marks fall and winter as ”˜quiet season’. It’s a time to mellow out and do indoor tasks, chores and craft moccasins. I like the mood this time of year sets.”
“This season is my favorite. It’s the leaves that fall with each gentle breeze, the observance of life from a distance already lived, the coldness that fills the night, the wreath of clouds that encompasses the moon, etc.” Beautiful. Pair that with, “The changing of the season is an important part of Thanksgiving. It’s not unusual to have the first snowfall in the [n]orthern Rio Grande during the Thanksgiving weekend.”
Two other pairings: “It’s the only time of the year we eat the Thanksgiving turkey spread. It was my Dad’s favorite meal; he taught me how to cook the Thanksgiving meal, creating a tradition.” “My dad recently passed away and the season for me will not be the same. In our traditions we wait a year til we can start enjoying our time here again.”
Other Ways to Celebrate
Another shares, “As a Muslim, my holiday seasons move around the calendar because we observe a traditional lunar calendar. This year, for me it’s not a holiday season. Winter is the hardest season for me because of the darkness and cold. I find myself marking the growing daylight after the winter solstice. That gives me hope for spring.”
We are diverse yet our words are similar: “I am a Mexican-American. Our lands were stolen, too; we were displaced like so many people living on the continent. I don’t celebrate Columbus Day, and Thanksgiving is not to celebrate anything resembling the Pilgrims passage, but time to see my family and to join together and yes, eat, but celebrate our time together and above all to be thankful.”
Here’s one person’s laid-back approach to Thanksgiving: “It’s just a day off to eat. I’m not even sure if I’ll be around my family on Thanksgiving Day. They may be travelling. It’s a lot of work; it’s not really that important of a holiday, I guess. I’d be just as happy eating Nachos.”
There are other things some like the season: last semester at IAIA; being able to wear sweaters; going to the zoo on Black Friday; cheering up folks with home cooking; and watching friends trying to make a vegetarian option!
Home or Travel? Be Thankful
Celebrating at home with family wins easily, although 63 percent said they would be traveling by car to their Thanksgiving destination. At least nine students will be staying at the dorms. Perhaps the 32 who responded that they will be hosting a traditional Thanksgiving dinner might consider inviting a student or two to join them around the table?
Whether you’re giving thanks for a sweet but ailing springer spaniel, for the breath of life, for good grades, or for other abundant blessings, think of these wise words signed with a smiley-face: “Giving thanks knows no season. It’s a daily thing.”
Have a good one.