What’s the deal with Thanksgiving?

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Turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, that amazing cranberry sauce shaped like the can, genocide, larceny by trick-yep, sounds like all the fixins for a typical American Thanksgiving!

Aanii, boozhoo! Welcome to first-ever episode of the ANGR Podcast. I’m your host, Sofia Syntaxx. You may remember me from such productions as DAMNED and the ChristmasHanakwanaza Variety Show. Today is Sunday, January 17, 2021, happy new year! We are certainly feeling blessed and happy to be here in the studio with y’all today.

it’s really More like “Thanks-Taking”

Miigweetch for joining me for the Angry NDN Girl Radio Podcast, or ANGR for short. Be sure to listen all the way to the end of the show to hear the details of how you can be part of future episodes and connect with me, your host Sofia Syntaxx. Grab your beverage of choice and settle in, because the show starts now!

The that most people remember about me, aside from my awesome glasses, is the fact that I am Native American, probably on account of the fact that I never shut up about it.

I’m also, what the kids call…angry.

There’s a lot to be angry about!

Voter suppression, lack of access to clean water, driving illegal and unwanted oil pipelines through sovereign tribal lands, climate change, the fact that in May of 2020, the Navajo Nation surpassed New York state for the highest Covid-19 infection rate in the United States and still doesn’t have proper support to combat this pandemic…

Ok. Yeah, I’m angry. Ergo, I am the Angry NDN Girl.

Now let’s get this out of the way first thing, right here in episode one. So if the A in ANGR stands for Angry, what’s the N for? GLAD YOU ASKED.

The N in ANGR stands for NDN. Maybe some of youse looked at that and wondered what it meant. Think about it. Say it out loud. N D N. Like Indian. Yeah, youse got it. No worries, it took me a minute the first time too.

No I was not born in India and I’m not Indian. I’m Anishnaabae. Ojibwe. Chippewa, if you like. Three different names for the same tribe. I also answer to American Indian, Native American, indigenous, heck I will even take First Nations, which is what the indigenous people of Canada are called, seeing as I’m from a border tribe. 

So why am I calling myself the Angry NDN Girl? Well, whe the NDN thing is just I saw other Native people writing online and thought it was cool. Cause, y’know, we didn’t all die off in the 18th century, we’re still here, and baby I’m sending up all my smoke signals on 5g. But I digress.

ANGR squad, I confess, I don’t know much about comedy; I’ve never taken a class or even read a book about it. But I do recall hearing somewhere that if you do stand-up, the first thing you need to address is whatever is obvious about you.

So like if you’re fat, talk about it, make a joke about it, yourself, and then move on. Take the wind out of your haters, basically.

To quote Tyrion from Game of Thrones (please forgive me for my Peter Dinklage impression): Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.

SO let’s get this out of the way right now:

I know, I don’t “look” Native. Or at least, I don’t look like what Hollywood has led the world to believe I should look like. And ooooof, there is so much to unpack there

Most people, when they look at me, think I’m white, let’s just be real. I have white by proxy privilege. I’ve also heard it referred to as being “white coded.” I call it being a pigment of your imagination.   Basically, the world treats me as being white, although that is not my culture or ancestry.

I do not, and will not, ever experience the world the same way as my darker skinned cousins do. I can pass as a white person. Ironically, as a child I suffered a lot over this. I wanted to “look” native. Other kids would tell me “You’re not Indian! You don’t look Indian!” I felt like a fake.

I tried for a long time to be white, and was so embarrassed of my mother, loud and proud as she is. Everything in our house was Native-themed (which in the 90’s mostly meant Southwest inspired decor, think lots of pastel greens and pinks, plus cactuses.) But we’re not Hopi or Dine! We’re Eastern Woodlands Indians!

But youse have to understand, there was just NOTHING in terms of representation when I was growing up, so my family glommed on to anything remotely indigenous. But that’s a topic for a different episode.

I felt like I could have just blended in, pretended to be white, and no one in my little suburban school district would have been the wiser. But my mother was having none of that.

You see, my mom is a traditional Native American storyteller, and starting in kindergarten, volunteered to come and tell stories in my classroom for Native American Heritage month, which falls in November.

Because, you know, Thanksgiving. We certainly wouldn’t want to talk about indigenous people more than once a year, so let’s lump it all together! Can youse tell that I ABHOR the fact that Native American Heritage Month is November? We’ll dive deeper into that later in the show, don’t worry.

My mom would faithfully come to my elementary school every November and tell traditional stories. I remember in second grade my teacher made the announcement that we were going to have a special guest in class, and everyone ran to the windows. She asked them what they were doing and one of the boys said, “We’re looking for the storyteller’s horse!

I was like my mom doesn’t ride a horse, she drives a Buick. 

I lost any chance of being able to blend in and assimilate during my school career, since my mom outed us from the jump. Miigweetch Mom.

Kindergarten through 12th grade, I was the ONLY NATIVE AMERICAN in my entire SCHOOL DISTRICT. Literally THE ONLY ONE.

The result was that any time anything REMOTELY related to Native people came up IN ANY CLASS, everyone turned to me for my take on it.

This is something that has repeated itself throughout my life, and I gotta say, while I am glad to be able to give some insight, it also makes me REALLY uncomfortable.

Native American people are not a monolith. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, there are 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States, to say nothing of the tribes that are NOT recognized by the US government.

When I speak to youse, I do so from my perspective as an Ojibwe two-spirit person. I feel like this is something I shouldn’t have to say but just in case, here it is, in plain English: I do NOT speak for all Native Americans. This all, like, uh, just my opinion, man.

Which brings me to the main topic of today’s episode: THANKSGIVING. This is the number one most popular subject I get asked about once people clue into the fact that I am Native, so it seemed like a great way to start off the season.  

I often get asked, Do Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving? And I like to tell them: We did, once *boom tiss

In all seriousness, let’s unpack Thanksgiving. For clarity: When I say Thanksgiving, I am the referring to the holiday that occurs in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November, not to be confused with Canadian Thanksgiving Day, which is celebrated on the second Monday in October.

The original Thanksgiving feast occurred in 1621 and was shared between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe of what is now southern New England.

During the previous year, the Native Americans had taught the Pilgrims how not to starve to death during winter and get a good crop going during the growing season. The 1621 affair was apparently a peaceful gathering to express gratitude.

By the late 1700s, nearly the entire Wampanoag population had been killed off or shipped to the West Indies as slave laborers.

Understandably, Thanksgiving is a complicated holiday for Native people.

Choosing not to celebrate doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy turkey, pie, and family as much as the next person. However, the Thanksgiving myth largely shared in mainstream culture perpetuates a one-sided view of a complicated history surrounding this holiday.

As I mentioned earlier, Native Americans are not monolithic, and every family approaches this holiday in a different way. Some think of it as a day of mourning, some refuse to celebrate it, some chose to focus on the food and the family, by-passing the ugly history behind why we celebrate.

For me, personally, I like the gratitude, but not the genocide. And I believe it is impossible to extract one without the other. I do not celebrate the holiday.

I usually have a feast or meal in the spring when it was traditional for the people of my tribe, who separated in the winter into smaller hunting camps, and reunited in the spring. It was a time to see who survived the winter, who passed away, and what new babies had come or were coming for the year, and everyone could celebrate and give thanks for making it through another hard winter. This is truer to my tribal culture and resonates more with me.

In a way, each day is a day of thanksgiving to the Creator for the original people of Turtle Island. We try to live our lives in a way which continually shows gratitude to our ancestors and blessings.

HOWEVER, and I say this with a BIG caveat, more than anything, I am a WORKER. And I don’t mean that in like a hashtag girl boss, hustle culture way. I mean it like Marx meant it. I am the working class.

 Due to the perverse nature of capitalism, I often have little choice over when I am given vacation and rest. Since I went away to college, and my family was still living out in the bush, Thanksgiving, being a settler holiday, always has time allotted to it on our academic calendar, so… beggars can’t be choosers. I took the time I was given to celebrate with my family when I could. Just so happened we ate Turkey because for real, I never eat turkey except in November, so… I ain’t hating on anybody who wants to make themselves a “traditional turkey” meal. The food part of the holiday is on point! The pilgrims’ part, eh, not so much.

Phew! That was a lot to unpack. I know we didn’t touch too deeply on the historical aspect of Thanksgiving in America, so if you’re looking for more information on that topic, allow me to recommend the ALL MY RELATIONS podcast.

All My Relations is a team of folks who care about representations, and how Native peoples are represented in mainstream media. They’ve got decades of experience working in and with Native communities. Listen to the episode titled “Thanksgiving or Thankstaking?” with Wampanoag scholars Paula Peters and Linda Coombs, to learn more about the real story of Thanksgiving.

Before we dive into my final thoughts, I’d like to remind everyone to subscribe and follow the show on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at ANGR Podcast, as well as using the linktree. Use that link and you’re able to access my show across all of my streaming platforms, as well as access my social media where you can @ me, leave me comments, likes, all that good stuff.

Maybe you totally disagree with something I said or want to give feedback on the show– social media is a great way to connect with me.

Which brings us to the Anishinaabemowin word of the week! You’ve all heard this one before: Aanii! As in Aanii boozhoo! Aanni and boozhoo both mean HELLO in our language. We usually write aanii, and say boozhoo in person or during ceremony. Next time you see me online or in the street, say AANII!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, time for my final thoughts, or as I like to think of it, the tl;dr segment of the program.

[Stage whisper] Tl;dr stands for too long didn’t read.

In this episode we discussed the true history of Thanksgiving and the complicated relationship Native American people have with this day. We learned thatThanksgiving is a holiday we celebrate to give thanks for the things we have, like food and shelter, as well as for other rights and freedoms…but while we are giving thanks, we also have to remember that not everybody has the same rights and freedoms (or food or shelter). So, we have to keep fighting so that everyone has both their basic needs met and the same rights.

One thing I am very thankful for, today and always, are our Patrons. I’d like to give a special shout-out and CHI’MIIGWEETCH (that’s a BIG thanks) to Carie for becoming our newest member! Chi’miigweetch Carie! We really appreciate you!

A lot of work goes into making each episode of the Angry NDN Girl Podcast the, including researching topics, learning new skills, and fact checking our sources. That’s why we ask you to support us on Patreon. Patreon is a way to support projects that you love and want to see continue in the world.

I’d love for you to be one of our supporters too.

Go to Patreon.com/SofiaSyntaxx, and support us at whatever level that you can.

Every little bit helps! And you can rest better, knowing that together, we’re putting our righteous anger to good use.

Thanks in advance for supporting us on Patreon and helping us tell the stories the world needs to hear.

Miigweetch miinwaa mi’iwi

[thank you and that’s all]

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