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For Those About To Feast

I have about a half hour before I need to hit the kitchen in order to have dinner ready by 5pm. I made the Crème Brûlèe yesterday. I bought the culinary torch which I can’t wait to use and 6 ramekins. Note to Kitchen Kaboodle: could you just pony up the extra 3½¢ per item it would cost to get stickers that peel off easily rather than the crapshit you use so I have to spend a half hour scraping and goo-goning to get my new ramekins clean?

My mother-in-law was kind enough to clip an article for me from one of her magazines that tells a common version of the first thanksgiving story including happy pilgrims and Indians whooping it up with lots of sharing, caring, giving and general good cheer.

In return, I’ve clipped for her a few articles that tell a less common version of the story which is a little darker and shows a side of the pilgrims that is not so generous.

From Deconstructing the Myths of The First Thanksgiving

Myth: The First Thanksgiving occurred in 1621.

Fact: No one knows when the “first” thanksgiving occurred. People have been giving thanks for as long as people have existed. Indigenous nations all over the world have celebrations of the harvest that come from very old traditions; for Native peoples, thanksgiving comes not once a year, but every day, for all the gifts of life. To refer to the harvest feast of 1621 as The First Thanksgiving disappears Indian peoples in the eyes of non-Native children.

Quoted from: The Hidden History of Massachusetts

According to a single-paragraph account in the writings of one Pilgrim, a harvest feast did take place in Plymouth in 1621, probably in mid-October, but the Indians who attended were not even invited. Though it later became known as "Thanksgiving," the Pilgrims never called it that. And amidst the imagery of a picnic of interracial harmony is some of the most terrifying bloodshed in New World history.

From The Thanksgiving Myth

Jump 129 years to 1621, year of the supposed "first Thanksgiving." There is not much documentation of that event, but surviving Indians do not trust the myth. Natives were already dying like flies thanks to European-borne diseases. The Pequot tribe reportedly numbered 8,000 when the Pilgrims arrived, but disease had reduced their population to 1,500 by 1637, when the first, officially proclaimed, all-Pilgrim "Thanksgiving" took place. At that feast, the whites of New England celebrated their massacre of the Pequots. "This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots," read Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop's proclamation. Few Pequots survived.

To end on a lighter note from Addams Family Values:

[As an Indian, ad-libbing during a Thanksgiving play]
Wednesday: Wait, we can not break bread with you. You have taken the land which is rightfully ours. Years from now my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will wear cardigans, and drink highballs. We will sell our bracelets by the road sides, and you will play golf, and eat hot h'ors d'ourves. My people will have pain and degradation. Your people will have stick shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. They said do not trust the pilgrims, especially Sarah Miller. And for all of these reasons I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground.

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Indian Dance

American Indian Heritage Month

When I enrolled at Clark College I filled out some form that asked my ethnicity and I put American Indian. Now I’m on the diversity mailing list and have gotten more mail than a person taking a single class for one quarter could possibly need.

I got a letter inviting me to try out for head dancer at the Clark College Pow Wow and when I told Bob, he said: "Cool. Are you going to do it?"

And I gave him a funny look because (a) I’ve never been a pow wow dancer, (b) pow wow isn’t part of my tradition, and (c) I’m not even a dancer in my own tribe’s tradition. Still, it was nice to be asked.

We went for Indian tacos before the pow wow and I was a little worried because there were only about 20 people and I thought, Oh no. Low turnout. My fears were unwarranted. The gym was more than half full. And those people are sad they missed out because the Indian tacos were awesome. I’ll omit any discussion about the fry bread controversy since it’s so yummy but if you’re interested start here. Also there was a tiny riot when late in the night the frybread ran out.

I love pow wows. My first favorite part is grand entry. It starts with Indian veterans and there’s always at least couple ancient elders, usually tiny, who stand so tall and so proud and are so completely confident and in charge. There is no way to watch without feeling a tug in your heart.

Last night was no exception. They followed grand entry with an hour of talking into microphones that sounded like the grownups on Charlie Brown. Everyone got to say something. Too bad most of it was unintelligible. This situation was made worse by all the dancers wearing bells on their shoes or jingle dresses and jumping around. I understood little except that this is part of a Title VII program — some sort of federal education funding and Indians.

They talked about Indian Heritage Month and read some sort of proclamation from President Bush. Possibly this. I like the part that goes, " … we honor the generations of American Indians and Alaska Natives who have added to the character of our Nation." I sat in the bleachers and said, "added? Are you kidding me, added?" The person reading the proclamation said he was going to skip the part about money and I said, "Yeah, how about settling Cobell?” the Indian trust case that doesn’t seem to have a chance of being settled. My dear husband encouraged me to relax and perhaps keep it down a bit

The MC was fantastic, as they usually are. He said, "We used to get just a day. Now, we get a whole month."

My second favorite part was the kid in the bleachers who danced during the opening songs, with a light saber.

My third favorite part was the tiny tots. Seven and under kids dancing is the cutest thing you’ve ever seen in your life. There was a little girl who looked like the Indian version of Little Miss Sunshine. I had my fingers crossed for a Super Freak moment.

Probably the highlight of the night was the drumline group of non-Indian sixth to eighth graders who set up their drums and joined the pow wow drum for a song. The first round didn’t completely work but the second round they were on fire. But no dancers. The MC asked them to play again and asked the dancers to get out there. Some of them balked but he would have none of it. "Make something up," he said. At least half of them got out there and went for it. It was really, really cool.

The next dance was Intertribal and the MC called the drumline kids out and asked them to dance. A nice moment and when you think about it, this is what heritage month should be all about.

I know a lot of people worked hard to make last night happen so huge applause from me. Super fun time.

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Paddle to the Sea

Coast Salish CanoeCoast Salish Canoe
Last weekend when we were in Tacoma, we had a chance to see Phil’s latest project. He’s working with a group to carve a Salish canoe. Lots of info and photos here.

Looking at Phil’s bio just now, his parents met at Chemawa Indian School. When I met them I told them that some of my family had attended Chemawa and they knew the name Wilder right away. Indian Country: not so big.

I’m impressed with the project. It’s one thing to see a canoe and another thing to see the work in progress. I found this article that tells a little bit more about canoe technology.

And here’s a photo of roughly what they’re going for.
Action Canoe

I would have loved to put these photos up earlier except I’ve been in camera hell for the past several days trying to get my new computer to make friends with my camera and transfer the images. I’ve been downloading and installing software, firmware and trading out memory cards and batteries. Ultimately I had to put a question in to support because no matter what I do I either get a spinning beachball of frozen hell OR I get an error message that tells me there is no memory card.

I can download the photos onto the old system, no problem. Meanwhile, while looking for cds and instruction manuals I’ve torn my room apart and found all sorts of other things I didn’t remember I had. Possibly a good thing.

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Root Ball

The plan for this afternoon is to do a bit of tweaks and start building the new pages for High Sierra and the trip to L.A. We’ll see how far I get. I just did today’s “15 minute gardener” routine. I finished chopping down the other dead rhodie and managed to dig up the stump or root ball or whatever you’d call it and I cleared a bunch more ivy and started chipping away at the tall rhodie on the side of the house. It’s about 10 feet tall now and I think I want to make it more my height. Someday this area will be ivy free and I’m going to plant hostas and maybe some calla lillies if they’re easy to grow. I also harvested more beets. Beets are my best crop after tomatoes. And what a bummer because Bob won’t eat them. Billy won’t eat the beets anymore either.

Last night we went to the Lillian Pitt Gallery on NE Alberta to see the premiere of a documentary about the Plateau People – art, culture and history of some local Indians. The documentary is very well done and the gallery is fabulous. I pointed out many ideas for potential gifts to my husband. Next weekend is the Wy-Kan-Ush-Pum at Waterfront park which is the Indian Art Northwest artist’s market and also fun outdoor music. I think we’re going to check it out.

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The Wisconsin Report

We flew into Madison on Saturday night and picked up our fun rental car, a Pontiac Bonneville. As Luke Skywalker once said, “What a piece of junk.” I think it’s supposed to be a luxury car but it rode bumpy and seemed noisy. We drove up to Baraboo to the Ho-Chunk Casino and Convention Center where my event was being held.

Sunday was a free during the day so we went to the Circus World Musuem which was fabulously cheesy. My family is, among other things, circus people and I went to Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus pretty much every year from tot to teen. We parked the car and could see the park across the river and the “big top” and I thought it was the coolest sight ever. There is a museum with endless historical artifacts and the out buildings from where the circus wintered way back at the turn of the century (1900) and then the park has a parade and various shows like the juggling workshop and then we saw the big top show. We ended up spending almost the whole day there.

In the evening the Ho-Chunks hosted a welcome feast and we tasted traditional foods and enjoyed traditional dancing. Monday the convention began. Bob went back to Circus World to visit the research library and pull up some stuff on Circus Renz and I attended rah-rah sessions on Tribal Employment. Bob got the slot machine fever — he needed some change to buy a paper and I suggested he put a few bills in a machine and he came back upstairs a half hour later and said, “I won $18.” I, of course, lost everything I put in the machines in about 2 seconds.

Meanwhile, the World Cup Soccer freak was hoping to see the USA v. Mexico game in an ideal setting, hopefully in the bar on one of the numerous screens they had devoted to sports. “What game?” was the reply to my inquiry. They didn’t know about the game — they were planning on being closed. The Casino main floor wasn’t much help either, “The TVs stay on the channel they’re on,” I was told. “But it’s the World Cup,” I repeated several times. No World Cup Fever in Wisconsin. I ended up waking up at 1:40am courtesy of the unusual traditional feast foods and thought “well, I’ll just check the score,” and USA was up 1-0 and I was glued to the screen until 3:40am. Then I had to try to sleep after the win.

Tuesday I attended more sessions while Bob went off to the Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin all day tour. He could not stop talking about this tour. “We put on little booties and walked around the house!” he gushed. Tuesday night there was social dance in the bar in the casino and we ended up sitting next to these ladies. “Where are you from?” one of them asked. “Washington,” I said. “Oh, we’re from a little town in Northern California on the Klamath River,” she told me. “I’m Karuk,” I said. We were sitting with three members of the Karuk tribe. We had a fun time partying with them.

Wednesday I left the convention early and we headed into Wisconsin Dells which, unless you’re from around there, must be seen to be believed. It’s an endless strip of gigantic water parks, indoor and out, go-karts, miniature golf, upper River tours, lower River tours, water shows, salt water taffy outlets — it goes on and on. We were driving along and I kept saying, “I can’t friggin believe this place.” We ended up visiting the H.H. Bennett Historical Museum — he was a photographer in the late 1800’s. We talked about going to a water park but those places cost $30 for day pass and I wasn’t up for it.

From there we drove back to Madison and wandered around the University district with shops and some atmosphere and also the State Capitol. Our flight home left at 6am Thursday which means a 4am wake up call which means 2am Pacific Time — it took me two days to get my clock back on schedule. But overall, I can’t say enough nice things about Wisconsin. It is pretty with lots of green and nice people and easy to get around. And lots of cheese.

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