Happy Mythologized Harvest Feast!

I guess somebody had to mention this. Let it be me.

Let's just put the day into perspective, shall we?

When I was a kid, every Thanksgiving, we did some kind of project in school which involved black and white construction paper and staplers to make "Pilgrim hats", and brown construction paper with multi-colored construction paper (and staplers) to make "Indian headbands". We were then indoctrinated with a feel-good story about how the "Pilgrims" and the "Indians" came together in a wonderful environment of sharing and good-will and ate turkey and punkin' pie.

Of course, this was almost completely 100% crap. Pilgrims didn't dress that way, and neither did the members of the Wampanoag tribe (that probably did share a feast with the white "settlers" in 1621 -- if you can trust white historians. Jus' sayin').

During my grade school years, there was absolutely no education in my public school about the genocide of original North American tribal peoples, or forced relocation, or forced schooling and fostering of tribal children to white institutions and families. None. Zip. Nada.

On one hand, I am glad that awareness has changed somewhat in my lifetime -- public school curriculums (in my town, at least) now include information about how this continent was appropriated by white people at a devastating cost to its original inhabitants.

On the other hand, I'm disheartened that this is the second image in a Google image search on "Thanksgiving" (please note presence of small, female tribal person at lower right -- doesn't she look happy? And tiny? And insignificant?):

I can almost hear her now, saying: "Gee, I'm really glad these white people aren't killing me (yet). Let's eat!"

Another thing I'd like to point out is that the phrase "this most American of holidays" has not only become inanely overused (Google it in quotes -- I dare you!), but is only accurate to the extent that you consider "America" as a reference to a continent or two (as in North and South), rather than "America=USA".

People all over the world have celebrated their harvest season for thousands -- perhaps tens of thousands -- of years. Tribal groups on this continent had been celebrating the "Three Sisters" in prayer and thanks-giving during autumnal harvest gatherings long before white people arrived in the "Americas".

The Moon Festival has been celebrated in China for 3000 years or more, Sukkot is recorded as the first observance at Solomon's temple (approx. 955 B.C.E.), the earliest recorded celebrations of Onam are 800 AD, and indigenous tribal people all over the world have remembered to stop after the harvest and say: "Gee. This is great. Look at all this stuff we have! I'm grateful to (the earth/the gods/goddesses/ancestors/spirits/whatever) that I have all this. Let's eat a bunch of it right now! Then -- let's get drunk and dance! . . . . . After we have a nap."

Personally, I enjoy Thanksgiving more than most federal U.S. holidays -- no presents to buy, no patriotic fervor, no commemoration of wars fought, struggles waged, or lives lost. Its traditionally soporific menu and focus on gratitude fit well with the life I want to create for myself, and the world I want to help create and live in -- a world of peace and bounty for all.

However, I tend to think of Thanksgiving not as "this most American of all holidays", but "this most Human of all holidays".

Lest you think I would forget, in my tryptophan-induced semi-coma, that it is STILL National Bible Week -- I'm offering you my first stab at LOLCats Bible Translation:

Hymn Of Purrrrrraise To Ceiling Cat -- Psalms 105: 1-4
1 Oh hai! - giv Cieling Cat teh bg prrrrrrrrrrrrr; yel "Ceiling Cat?" rlly lowd: tel othr kittehs (mybe puppeez tu) whut him haz dided. 1O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people.
2 Maek teh noizy mew at him, mybe maek up teh fnny song tu, k?: tel bout teh tiem he maek teh gushy coem out frm frigratr an oter majik stuf him canz du. 2Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works.
3 Rll arown liek hiz naem iz yr ctnipz: beez hppy win yu lookz arown tu seez Cieling Cat. 3Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD.
4 Go arown teh hole howz liek yu crzy cuz yu no canz find favrit toyz -- yu lookz arown to seez Cieling Cat, an teh mussels uv him, tu (hintz: dOOd! lookz up! him iz prbly in cieling -- yu lookz fr whskerz uv him -- RITE NOW! -- all teh tiem -- SRSLY!) 4Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 1:03 PM  


Emily said... November 24, 2007 at 5:55 AM  

In discussions about the settlement/occupation of the Americas by the Europeans, my students have shown pretty clear knowledge of the devastation that occurred for the indigineous people. We had a good discussion about My Antonia in that regard.

I'm pleased with that -- they were a little fuzzy on some of the facts, but they had a general concept that the building of the US wasn't just moving out onto empty land ripe for the taking. (But I'll give them credit even for their fuzziness -- they're a little fuzzy on any history that happened before, say, 1980. They know it happened, but it all seemed to have happened at the same time. I'm sure I was somewhat the same when I was in college).

The discussion of the European incursion into this continent gets interesting in some of my classes where many of my students aren't born/raised in the US, but are from places around the Caribbean and South American. That's opened my consciousness to where we all come from -- and that I can't assume my students will always get the references in the poetry by US authors.

Anyway ... good post. Happy weekend after big feast day ....

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