Native American Heritage Month (3)

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Many people question why we need to focus on the diversity of our nation and celebrate heritage days and months; why can’t we simply celebrate our sameness as Americans.Also questioned is why we look back on the way we treated the indigenous peoples who were already here at our country’s very beginnings.

People want to forget the bad parts of our history.

The racist parts. The genocide. The meanness and the bigotry.

We can’t let those memories fade. They are a part of our history, and as we saw earlier in the year in British Columbia, Canada, it is part of the collective history of this continent.

While we were on vacation in August, we couldn’t help but notice the signs, the memorials for the two hundred fifteen First Nations children found in unmarked graves in Kamloops, British Columbia.

The articles read and linked below, as well as others were difficult enough to accept and they are still being processed emotionally by Native and non-Native peoples alike. However, happening upon one such memorial in Kanawake, the Mohawk tribal lands in southern Quebec tugged at emotions I was unaware of. The sight of the small shoes, representing the dead and unremembered 215 children, some as young as 3 was a lot to take in. It left me with a profound sadness, but also an emptiness that even the sadness couldn’t fill.

I leave you with links to read and photos to meditate on.

Horrible History: Mass Grave of Indigenous Children Reported in Canada

Canada Mourns as Remains of 215 chiildren found at indigenous school

A Burial Site for Indigenous Children was Found in Canada. Could it happen in the United States?

The emtpy shoes representing the 215 Indigenous children found in Kamloops. My presumption is that the ashes are from a First Nations religious ceremony in memory of the children. (c)2021
The above shoes can be seen at the St. Francis Xavier Mission in Kanawake, Quebec. This is also the site of the St. Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine where her body was brought. She is the first Native American Catholic saint. (c)2021
Signs we saw at various places across Quebec and Ontario, Canada. (c)2021

Native American Heritage Month (2)

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When we travel to places with Native American distinction and I plan to buy something to remember my visit, I look to see if the object is Native made. There are so many knock-offs and items appropriated out there that I feel that if I’m going to buy Native crafts, symbols, and jewelry, it should be genuinely made by Native peoples and the income should benefit them.

The picture below highlights my three most recent crafts:

(c)2021

The photo on the left is a dream catcher. I have had one in my bedroom for decades. I had received a small one but it has been mislaid. I chose this one while we were in Montreal. I didn’t realize it at first but it is a necklace. I have hung it over the lamp on my bedstand to keep away bad spirits and dreams.

The top right is a simple lapel pin that I purchased at the St. Kateri Shrine in Fonda, New York. It is the flag of the Iroquois Confederation. These flags can be seen flying in many places across New York State and lower Canada.

The bottom right picture is a pair of earrings I discovered in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I was drawn several times to the three colors – the silver, the bronze, and the turquoise. While this design could easily be Native American jewelry or ancient Egyptian, and I was so happy to find that they were indeed Native made. As my birthstone is turquoise, I am often drawn to the stone and color.

We Give Thanks

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The Thanksgiving holiday is full of disharmony as we come to grips with our historic (and recent) treatment of the Native American peoples who were here before we arrived from Europe.

A few personal thoughts:

Growing up Jewish, this was always my favorite holiday. We didn’t need to explain our religious holidays and we weren’t excluded from the mainstream Christian holidays. This was an American holiday, one that everyone could participate in, both as a harvest holiday and as a day of gratitude. It brought our family together as well as allowing us to be a part of the greater family of our community.

This year comemorates the 400th anniversary of that traditional first Thanksgiving hosted by the Pilgrims who survived that first harsh winter. The basics of that first holiday, a gathering in gratitude brought two different communities together to share what each had. The helped each other and maintained a friendship against great odds. In modern days, we have much to be thankful for. I won’t list mine, but take a moment to reflect on your own blessings.

At mass this morning, we continued a tradition at my parish that I have always loved. Instead of a collection, we bring a bag of non-perishable food to the altar (for our food pantry and Christmas baskets), and at the end of mass, each family is given a small loaf of bread that has been blessed to share at our dinner table. We are called to pray and to break bread.

Give us this day, our daily bread…

(I apologize for the blurry picture) (c)2021

Last year while visiting Niagara Falls, New York, we learned of a nearby monument in Lewiston that commemorates the Tuscarora Indians coming to the rescue of American citizens during the War of 1812. The British invaded from Canada to the north and were mobilizing an attack on the village with their Indian allies. The Tuscarora, being outnumbered gave the appearance of greater numbers and were able to give the Lewiston families time to escape the inevitable horrors of death and watching their loved ones brutally murdered.

This monument is breathtaking in its emotion. The sculpted faces of both the mother and child fleeing and the Tuscarora helping them is so vivid, it tells the story in deeper and more profound ways than reading about it could ever do. I stood in awe of it for several minutes, even though it was pouring rain for much of the time.

Tuscarora Monument, Lewiston, NY. (c)2021
A closer look, Tuscarora Monument, Lewiston, NY. (c)2021

Enjoy the day with family and friends or alone, in peaceful quiet or boisterous noise, with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce or whatever your family traditions call for.

Native American Heritage Month

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I want to acknowledge that my family and I live on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee. I grew up knowing them as the Iroquois, which is the French name. Haudenosaunee means People of the Longhouse and they have a rich history in New York State. The map below shows the other tribes traditional to New York. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is the oldest, participatory Democracy and our US Constitution is said to be modeled on theirs.

Credit: Aaron Carapella (c)2021

Some links to check out about Native American Heritage Month:

Beyond Each November from First Nations

Native American Heritage Month Information and Activities


I’ve mentioned my affinity for our local saint, Saint Kateri Tekawitha (pronounced “gaderi dega-gwita”). She is the first Native American saint to be canonized. Her official elevation was in 2012 and her most recent miracle was in 2006. St. Kateri was Algonquin on her mother’s side and Mohawk on her father’s.

Since I was going to visit her shrine in Quebec, I wanted to have her chaplet to pray with while I was there. I wasn’t able to acquire it until after so I drew one and used that for my prayer. Here is a photo of both of them:

Chaplet of St. Kateri Tekawitha.
(c)2021

Aloha Oe

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I’ve been struggling with focus and writing and motivation. This includes my plans for Nanowrimo. I’m hoping that I will pick up the pen and get moving on my Nano projects. It’s only the first week, so it is not an impossible task.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading. A lot. Fifty-four books so far this year and two months left. My most recent book, Lost Kingdom: Hawai’i’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure by Julia Flynn Siler and it was eye-opening. Reading how Hawai’i sovereignty was overthrown against the wishes of the Native Hawaiians is something we should not forget, especially as we commemorate Native American Heritage Month this November.

The above title is the title of the famous song, which was written by Queen Lili’uokalani. I did not know this. In fact, she composed many songs that are still sung today.

In addition to the history lesson, the book did also inspire me to draw and I share that piece below:

Art inspired by Queen Lili’uokalani and the book, Lost Kingdom by Julia Siler.
(c)2021