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No need to baste Thanksgiving turkey in guilt

Mark Anthony Rolo, former executive director of the Native American Journalists Association and currently a writer for the Progressive Media Project, recently wrote a column for the national wire titled, "Why, as an American Indian, Thanksgiving ...

Mark Anthony Rolo, former executive director of the Native American Journalists Association and currently a writer for the Progressive Media Project, recently wrote a column for the national wire titled, "Why, as an American Indian, Thanksgiving is so difficult."

He missed the mark when he wrote about American Indians and the Thanksgiving holiday.

Rolo says he's an American Indian who has to be careful about admitting to the guilty pleasures of enjoying a turkey feast (Thanksgiving) because it's thought by "white liberals" that he is commemorating the cultural death of "my Indian people."

He should serve himself up a piece of "sorry pie" on this Thanksgiving for his misleading perceptions and speaking on behalf of many American Indians.

Remembering "genocide, land stealing and smallpox" isn't what this holiday is about. It's about thanking the Creator for the gifts given to us and remembering how fortunate we are. You don't sprinkle hate and anger onto that kind of feast.


Most Indian people in the Plains states believe the Thanksgiving holiday is a time for "Giving Thanks." And that's not a new concept among Indian people; the only thing new is giving thanks on a specific date in November.

It is a good holiday because in our hurried, hassled and harried lives, many of us take for granted things such as our health and loved ones and forget we are blessed in many ways. Young people should remember this despite the fact that they may not have the latest Ipod, digital cell phone, up-to-date HD television or a hot car.

And of course, we do remember from grade school that we made pilgrims and Indians out of colored paper and talked of Squanto and the Pilgrims, which was followed by a big meal with family - those are there too, but not what is important.

I got two e-mails today from friends. One said her mother was diagnosed with skin cancer. Another told me that her father and sister have cancer, and they are bravely struggling with the disease. The first friend appreciates that she can be with her mother and also is thankful her mother is recovering. My other friend looks at her father and sister with new eyes and relishes her time with them.

Good health and the well-being of our family are so important and something to give thanks for every day, all the time.

I have been getting ready for Thanksgiving at home in White Shield, N.D. This will be the first big family Thanksgiving in a few years. My mother and my aunt, Dorothy Yellow Bird and Pearl Howard, passed away within a year of each other. Their absence would have been too painful, so for the past few years, we've had small gatherings within our own families.

Keeping the family history is one of my roles in our large family. And I do mean large family: This year, we've counted 60-plus who'll be at this Thanksgiving dinner, and that isn't all of the family. In fact, we've had to rent a community center to accommodate the family.

My daughter, Karen, sister, Liz, and I put together old pictures that I've taken since I got a Brownie box camera 50-some years ago for Christmas. With the expertise of my daughter and sister, we will have a slide-show presentation during Thanksgiving.


If my other family members enjoy those pictures as much as the three of us did, they will be rolling in the aisles. As we sorted though the pictures (taking out the worst ones of ourselves, of course), we saw snapshots of my mother and aunt and could see them moving closer to their last days. Our sadness, however, has turned toward remembering and appreciating them instead of seeing the gaping hole they left in our families.

We will be celebrating the new babies born into our band whom we need to meet and welcome. We will also be remembering that the torch has been passed from our mother and aunts into our hands. And we know that those elders' spirits will be watching over this celebration.

Thanksgiving is sometimes thought of as a women's celebration among Indian people because the food is prepared by women - mothers, aunts, nieces, sisters, grandmothers and so on. They cook into the meals prayers for good health, healing and good fortune for next year for the people. The grandfathers, fathers, uncles, nephews and brothers say the prayers and are the strength and backbone of the tribe.

This year, we are especially thankful that our young men and women returned home safely from the war.

We also will be thankful for our good health and pray for those who are ill with diabetes, alcoholism, cancer, heart disease and so on. Thanksgiving is a truly a American Indian holiday, although we didn't name it or set the theme; it fits right into who we are. We won't, however, be crying over past wrongs perpetrated against American Indians.

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