Hello my friends! To close out my year of Smithsonian Heritage Month posts, we’ve got Dee Tenorio!!! You might think “haven’t we seen her before for this?” And yes! You have! Which is kinda cool to my mind, right? Extra double heritage! 😀 Please give Dee a warm welcome!
When Indians Feast…
I’m an Indian—Chumash, Apache and a wee bit of Maidu, though nowadays, everyone just calls me Native American—so as you can imagine, that makes Thanksgiving a little complicated. It’s hard to celebrate a day that is universally recognized as the day that sealed the fate of my people. As a kid, the story of saving the pilgrims was told less as a unity tale and more of a cautionary one: no good deed goes unpunished. You gotta be careful who you help and all that. It’s understandable, of course, that the elder Indians wanted us to learn from what was considered the mistakes of the past. There wasn’t many of us left and lets face it, historically Indians had a habit of believing what they were told and then getting burned for it…literally.
So, let’s go ahead and picture young Dee trying to reconcile her culture with today’s society. Teachers didn’t like it when I protested wearing a paper pilgrim hat in second grade. They were less happy that I felt making a paper headband with two feathers stapled on was a racial stereotype and that a girl wearing a full on headdress was not only wrong but bordering on blasphemous. No, I could not bring up the small pox or that the pilgrims eventually turned on the Indians who saved them. We were supposed to think on the importance of the one day they came together in peace and harmony.
But it wasn’t that simple for me. The whole time, the lessons in my head fought with what was in front of me. Thanksgiving is bad….juicy turkey. Thanksgiving is bad….cute turkey parade! Thanksgiving is bad….smells so goooooooooood! Thanksgiving is bad….two days off school!
Clearly, a compromise had to be made.
Thankfully, Mom had the answer…she always does. Thus, our family created “Turkey Day”. It’s not thanksgiving to us, it’s the day we eat a hell of a lot of inexpensive turkey, watch a ton of movies and pretty much don’t move except to get more pie. Sure, it’s pretty much what everyone else does, but the root of it doesn’t feel like betrayal to our people this way. It’s about being together, pooling our resources so all of us have more than enough to eat and laughing together for hours on end. It’s how my family celebrates that we’re still here. It’s also how we plot surviving Christmas, but that’s another story…
Thank you, Dee, for this post. I think it brings up a lot of issues people just gloss over, or don’t even know (remember?) – especially with how this holiday has turned to consumerism. A good reminder to think of others, and reflect.
It’s been a long year of many unplanned things. I started working on Smithsonian Heritage Month features in 2012, and I never imagined it’d turn out like this. I’m glad I went on this journey of exploration and I’m thankful you were all with me on it. Forward and such!