Posts Tagged: Native American
The narrative that many people have been taught beginning in elementary school about the First Thanksgiving celebration in the United States is based on historically inaccurate myths that fail to acknowledge the devastation wrought by settler colonialism, including genocide, land theft, forced assimilation and cultural appropriation.
Many Native people refuse to celebrate Thanksgiving; some engage in a day of mourning, protesting the genocide wrought on their ancestors and ongoing oppression. Others pay respect to time-honored values and traditions centering on family, the earth and the harvest. As educators, it is important for us to understand the atrocities experienced by Native peoples at the hands of the European settlers, and Native perspectives about thanksgiving—a time of honoring the ancestors including the lands, plants and animals that are understood as relations—when we are communicating about the meaning of the Thanksgiving celebration.
Celebrations of harvest certainly did not originate with settlers and Native Americans sharing a meal in the 17th century, but rather have been integral to the fabric of Indigenous existence since time immemorial, noted UC Berkeley Professor Elizabeth Hoover (Mohawk/Mi'kmaq descent).
“For Haudenosaunee people (in the northeast), the Thanksgiving Address (Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen, the Words that Come Before All Else) is recited before every important event,” Hoover said. “There are thanksgiving feasts held when the thunders start, when the sap flows, when it's time for the seeds to be planted, when the first wild strawberries come out, when the green beans are ready, when the green corn is ready, when the harvest is ready — many times throughout the year.”
Taking a decolonizing approach to Thanksgiving rejects the myths of Thanksgiving and harmful stereotypes about Native peoples that reinforce oppression, and invites opportunities for deepening our collective understanding of Indigenous history, amplifying Native perspectives that highlight the diversity of Indigenous peoples and foodways, and support Native-led food sovereignty and land stewardship initiatives that affirm contemporary presence and self-determination of Native people in 21st-century America.
UC Berkeley Professor Peter Nelson (Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria) offers this helpful insight: “We have plenty of points at which we give thanks for what our non-human relations give us or honor the changing of the seasons and gathering times. The fall in my language, Coast Miwok (Tamal Machchaw), is 'umpa walli or acorn time. Some of these concepts don't exactly translate from English. ‘Thank you,' or ka molis, means something more like I'm glad/happy. We express a state of being or how it makes us feel. The same is true of the concept of ‘I'm sorry,' which doesn't exist in our language. We have to contrive something to the effect of ‘my heart is sad,' ka wuskin sawa. Again, a state of being and there is a sense that you should just express how to fix things if they are out of sorts. Hearing a settler apology isn't enough. Do something about it.”
Consider centering Thanksgiving messaging around social and environmental justice by sharing resources for learning about the authentic history of Native Americans, contemporary Native American peoples and communities in both urban and rural areas, and supporting the growing Indigenous food sovereignty movement among Native Americans to reclaim and restore their food systems througheco-cultural restoration and self-determination.
The following are resources suggested by Elizabeth Hoover, Peter Nelson and others to learn more about the perspective of Native Americans on the U.S. holiday.
Decolonizing the history and meaning of Thanksgiving:
- Share these powerful short videos on Thanksgiving word association and Native people describing Thanksgiving that are helpful for understanding the Native American perspective on the holiday.
- View this brief speech by Linda Coombs (Aquinnah Wampanoag), who used to direct the Wampanoag Indigenous Program and Plymouth Plantation, at the site of the presumptive original Thanksgiving meal, for a greater perspective on the myths surrounding the origins of Thanksgiving.
- Also read this speech that Frank James attempted to deliver before the 1970 Pilgrim's Progress parade in Plymouth. His rejection after the organizers heard the content of his speech led to the National Day of Mourning counter-parade that takes place each year.
- This article, “The Thanksgiving Tale We Tell Is a Harmful Lie. As a Native American, I've Found a Better Way to Celebrate the Holiday,” is a helpful resource where Sioux Chef Sean Sherman makes the case for focusing Thanksgiving on values that apply to everybody: togetherness, generosity and gratitude, as well as embracing Indigenous foods, which are centrally featured in Thanksgiving meals including turkey, corn, beans, pumpkins, maple, cranberries, wild rice, etc.
- An excellent compilation of resources for youth and families by Lindsey Passenger Wiek, can be found in Decolonizing Thanksgiving: A Toolkit for Combatting Racism in Schools, that includes books, articles and inspirations for lesson plans, several of which are listed below.
- Helpful book suggestions and educational resources for teaching Thanksgiving in a socially responsible way, including lesson plans for all ages, are provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center at https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/teaching-thanksgiving-in-a-socially-responsible-way.
Learn about the Indigenous history of the United States and the Native lands and people where you live:
- Spend some time researching the environmental and cultural history of the lands where you are standing starting with identifying whose lands you are residing in via this interactive map of Indigenous territories and learning about how you can support them.
- Learn about how the University of California (all land grant institutions of higher education for that matter) were founded upon the expropriation and sale of Indigenous lands that were “granted” to every state under the Morrill Act in this High Country News article and this UC Land-grab Workshop series. On this interactive map created by UC IGIS at https://arcg.is/1GTiuv, you can identify specific parcels that were “granted” and the Native communities from whom they were taken.
- Educate yourself about the history of Indigenous peoples and the American genocide in the United States, by reading Benjamin Madley's An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873i, Vine Deloria's 1969 Custer Died for Your Sins, Dunbar Ortiz's An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, or Dee Brown's classic Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
Learn about, support and amplify Native-led food sovereignty and land-stewardship initiatives in California:
- Watch the film Gather, featuring Indigenous chefs, scientists and activists around the country working to restore their spiritual, political and cultural identities through food sovereignty, including Samuel Gensaw (Yurok), co-founder of the Ancestral Guard, committed to restoring the foodways of North Coast California.
- Read about Indigenous foodways initiatives through Civil Eats reporting.
- Feature Native chefs in your communications such as Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino of Café Ohlone and Crystal Wahpepah to honor their Indigenous food heritage.
- Promote Native food purveyors, and other Native-owned businesses not only in November but year-round, as a way of honoring Native culture and ethical practices.
- Learn about and support Indigenous-led land stewardship efforts to restore cultural burning practices by the Karuk Tribe, the Amah Mutsun Land Trust, and the North Fork Mono Tribe, among others, to enhance healthy relationships with the land and mitigate against catastrophic fires that have devastated California communities and ecosystems.
- Read the First Nations Development Institute's report on California Indigenous land stewards for more information on both urban and rural Indigenous-led stewardship initiatives and Native perspectives across the state, including the Sogorea Te' Land Trust, an urban Indigenous women-led community organization that facilitates the return of Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone lands in the San Francisco Bay Area to Indigenous stewardship.
- Read Elizabeth Hoover's blog about Native American farming and food sovereignty http://gardenwarriorsgoodseeds.com.
Honoring Native people and perspectives on Thanksgiving:
- In addition to reading, you may consider visiting a local Native American museum or cultural center during some part of the holiday (courtesy of Eve Bratman).
- Play the song Custer Died for your Sins and other songs of Indigenous resistance as music during your celebration. For starters, check out Rebel Beat Radio and Indigenous Resistance (courtesy of Eve Bratman)
- Take a moment of silence and remembrance for ancestors and the people whose land you are occupying, before your meal. Set intentions to learn more about and take action to support Native people.
Jennifer Sowerwine, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley, and Sabrina Drill, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, collaborate with Native Americans on environmental and food sovereignty research.
Native Americans suffer from the highest rates of food insecurity, poverty and diet-related disease in the United States. A new study finds that Native American communities could improve their food security with a greater ability to hunt, fish, gather and preserve their own food.
“How food security is framed, and by whom, shapes the interventions or solutions that are proposed,” said Jennifer Sowerwine, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley, who led the study in partnership with the Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa, and Klamath Tribes. “Our research suggests that current measures of and solutions to food insecurity in the United States need to be more culturally relevant to effectively assess and address chronic food insecurity in Native American communities.”
The study conducted by researchers at UC Berkeley and four Native American tribes shows that 92% of Native American households in the Klamath Basin suffer from food insecurity.
Native American tribes in the Klamath Basin seasonally harvest, consume and store diverse aquatic and terrestrial native foods including salmon, acorns and deer. In survey responses, 86% of the participants said they consumed native foods at least once in the previous year. Yet significant barriers, including restrictive laws and wildlife habitat degradation, limit availability and quality of these foods.
While 64% of Native American households in the Klamath Basin rely on food assistance (compared to the national average of 12%), 84% of the Native Americans using food assistance worried about running out of food or had run out of food. This suggests the need to consider more effective solutions rooted in eco-cultural restoration and food sovereignty to address food insecurity in Native American communities.
Study participants strongly expressed the desire for strengthened tribal governance of Native lands and stewardship of cultural resources to increase access to native foods, as well as strengthening skills for self-reliance including support for home food production. Community members suggested solutions including tribe-led workshops on native foods gathering, preparation and preservation; removing legal barriers to hunt, fish and gather; restoring traditional rights to hunt, fish and gather on tribal ancestral lands; providing culturally relevant education and employment opportunities to tribal members; and increased funding for native foods programs.
While growing evidence suggests that native foods are the most nutritious and culturally appropriate foods for Native American people – and over 99% of people surveyed in the region said they want more of these foods – nearly 70% said they never or rarely get access to the native foods they want.
“We know our efforts to revitalize and care for our food system through traditional land management are critical to the physical and cultural survival of the humans who are part of it,” said Leaf Hillman, program manager for the Karuk Tribe's Píkyav Field Institute. “This study will support our ability to bring that message to the decisionmakers who need to hear it.”
With the study results indicating that increased access to native foods and support for cultural institutions such as traditional knowledge and food sharing are key to solving food insecurity in Native American communities, Sowerwine and the research team propose including access to native foods as a measure for evaluating food security for Native people.
The assessment is based on 711 surveys completed by households from the Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa and Klamath Tribes, 115 interviews with cultural practitioners and food system stakeholders, and 20 focus groups with tribal members or descendants.
In addition to Sowerwine and Hillman, the study was conducted by post-doctoral researchers Megan Mucioki and Dan Sarna-Wojcicki, and research partners from the Yurok, Karuk and Klamath Tribes.
“Partnering with tribal community members in the research makes the research stronger, and that is especially true in this unique food security assessment,” said Sowerwine. “With the study design grounded in nearly a decade of relationship-building and respectful engagement with our tribal partners, we are confident that our results reflect their priority questions and concerns while contributing valuable new information to the field of indigenous food systems.”
“Reframing food security by and for Native American communities: a case study among tribes in the Klamath River basin of Oregon and California” is published in the journal Food Security.
This research was part of a $4 million, five-year Tribal Food Security Project funded by USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture-Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Food Security Grant #2012-68004-20018. For full results and recommendations from the project team, visit https://nature.berkeley.edu/karuk-collaborative/?page_id=1088.
Throughout Humboldt and Del Norte counties, the UC Master Food Preserver Program is actively engaging with tribal members. In fact, the UC Master Food Preserver volunteers have been “jamming it up” since 2017 with over 15 workshops for tribal community members.
Kella Roberts, of United Indian Health Services, has helped more than 280 community members improve their health and wellness - one jar, one dehydrator, one freezer bag at a time. Their workshops support existing efforts in the tribal communities to empower individuals, families, tribes, and the community to make healthy choices.
Roberts, along with her fellow UC Master Food Preserver volunteers, deserve recognition for coordinating and delivering food preservation classes to new audiences. They've adopted methods to help those with diabetes by limiting the sugar in recipes, and taught four workshops on ginger zucchini orange marmalade and strawberry jam using pectin.
Over 130 youth and adults across four workshops went through the hands-on process of mashing and drying berries to make strawberry and beet fruit leather.
Roberts kept the crunch going by teaching workshops on kosher dills, pickled green beans and pickled beets. Kale chips were another crunchy treat with healthful benefits that were highlighted at a Hands on Health Conference workshop. Other healthy food preservation workshops included smooth applesauce and fruit dehydration.
To increase participation, these workshops were held at sites where tribal members already meet and live, including the Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria, Big Lagoon Rancheria, Blue Lake Rancheria, Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria, Elk Valley Rancheria, Resighini Rancheria, Wiyot Tribe, Tolowa Dee-Ni' Nation, and the Yurok Reservation.
Find a UC Master Food Preserver Program near you to get involved in sharing home food preservation techniques with your community. The program uses research-based methods to deliver home food preservation methods to Californians.