UnThanksgiving reflections – Some of you may remember the Red Power Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Those brothers and sisters were the first people who started UnThanksgiving also known as Indigenous Peoples Annual Sunrise ceremony. Thousands of Native Americans and their supporters still gather, on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay Area for an annual Sunrise Gathering on Thanksgiving Day, to pray and pay homage to indigenous people.
In honor of my own Native ancestors, I attended a ceremony during the 80s when I lived in Oakland. It was the largest Powwow that I had ever attended. The Elders were standing, teaching, and leading prayers. They also shared their prophecies about the “invaders.”
To the sound of drums I witnessed a sea of many tribes–from Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Canada, East coast, Southern states, Caribbean, South America and more. Many of them proudly wore their full regalia and some were in plain clothes. The men, women children and elders danced, sang and chanted in a huge solemn circle. It was beautiful, joyful, magical and sad all at the same time. The goal of the event, created by the International Indian Treaty Council and the American Indian Contemporary Arts, was to honor Native American history and to educate others about indigenous people everywhere.
“We are here to remind people that want to destroy our way of life, that we are still here. We are still carrying on our ways. We are still carrying on our traditions,” said Bill “Jimbo” Simmons, an International Indian Treaty Council leader at a past ceremony.
Forget about Black Friday shopping! Instead, eat, pray, love, read, and view some documentaries to make your Thanksgiving holiday more meaningful.
Here is my UnThanksgiving to-do list:
Native Foods: On Thanksgiving Day, make sure you eat or prepare something from the “three sisters”: beans, corn and squash, often called the heart and soul of America’s indigenous diet.
Pray: Expand your Thanksgiving prayer to include something about the indigenous people everywhere. Be creative and make up a special prayer.
Read: Did you know that some people believe that the history of Thanksgiving began in Texas and Florida and not with the Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation? Some people (especially many Natives!) doubt Thanksgiving really happened! Learn the myth of Spider Woman, the creator of Mother Earth and other Native American legends. Read all about it.
Films: There are many films with Native American themes that I liked, such as Dances with Wolves and Windtalkers. Red Cry is a documentary that really stands out and is generating a lot of buzz now. Check it out.
What do you think of Un-Thanksgiving? Do you have any other suggestions for Native American-themed films or books? In your family history, do you have Native ancestry? Please share in the comments section below.