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The Indigenous Peoples Celebration Committee would like to invite you to participate in their first Indigenous Authors Book Club! Join us on Sunday, January 29, 2023 from 4-5:30 pm for a virtual Book Club conversation. This month we will be reading and discussing Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
“As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take us on “a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise” (Elizabeth Gilbert).
Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, and as a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings―asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass―offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.”
To RSVP to the Book Club gathering or to request or get information on reasonable accommodations or language access, please contact Caitlin Starr email@example.com or at 617-731-2345.
Once you RSVP you will receive a confirmation email and a registration link to the virtual meeting.
Books are available for purchase at the Brookline Booksmith, as well as online at the author’s website or on Amazon. Books are also available to borrow from the Brookline Libraries; there are 6 copies specifically on hold for this Book Club at the Coolidge Corner Library under the name Goldner; you may inquire at the desk.
For more information about the Indigenous Peoples Celebration Committee, please visit https://www.brooklinema.gov/1555/Indigenous-People-Celebration-Committee
Please feel free to share this with your networks and we hope to see you there!
Please also visit / join us on FACEBOOK, Twitter and Instagram at IPDCCBrookline.
Caitlin Starr, MPH, CDE
Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Relations
Town of Brookline
11 Pierce St
Brookline, MA 02445
Office Days: Tuesdays and Thursdays
Felina Silver Robinson
Chair, Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration Committee
Please visit: https://hiddenbrookline.weebly.com/broad-view-natives-colonization--slavery-list-of-enslavers--enslaved.html
written by Amaris Pollinger December 21, 2020
Non-native holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas often make many tribal communities pause to reconsider if, and what, they might be celebrating. Being multicultural, with Muscogee (Creek) blood that runs deep, I often find myself in this strange gray area and the holidays are no exception, especially Thanksgiving. I mean, I love pumpkin and sweet potato everything—but should I be sitting down to a holiday whose origin is so questionable? So, how do indigenous peoples celebrate the holidays, if at all? The answer isn’t as easy as one might think. They do and they don’t. And no one tribe is the same as another. I’m here to share a bit of what I know and help you navigate the holidays a little more mindfully.
Practicing Gratitude Before It Was Cool
For some Indigenous peoples, celebrating Thanksgiving is about basic human decency. Not colonialism, or even the first Thanksgiving feast between the Wampanoag tribe and English settlers. It’s about the celebration of gratitude and diversity among human beings. Besides, it was the Wampanoags that provided the food and the age-old ideology of gratitude. (Giving thanks before that Instagram influencer told you it was cool.)
That being said, Native tribes aren’t all the same. Each has its own stories, history, and way of life, and while some things are common among them, you can’t compare a Cherokee to a Navajo and lump them into the same category. This is why there is no easy answer for how, or if Indigenous peoples celebrate non-Native holidays. Plus, many traditions and ceremonies are sacred and not shared with anyone outside the tribe.
For example, members of the Seneca tribe greet the dawn of November 22nd with a memorial ceremony and prayer held to honor the spirits of those who were lost to genocide. For them, Thanksgiving is a day of ceremonial remembrance and spirituality, sometimes accompanied with public mourning. Other tribes refuse to acknowledge the holiday at all, as they feel their own heritage isn’t acknowledged.
Personally, I start every Thanksgiving with an old Thanksgiving memorial, specifically honoring my matriarchal Creek grandmother for her strength, sacrifice, and fortitude.
Is Christmas a Thing? Looking on the Bright Side for the Winter Solstice
Before celebrating Christmas, Natives honored the Winter Solstice, and many still do alongside the Christian holiday. Commemoration of this day has longer roots than the recognition of Christmas. Indigenous people throughout the world paid homage to the Winter Solstice, and Native Americans were no exception. Traditionally, it’s a time for honoring the “return” of the sun (ahem, “birth of the sun”) family, the spirits of one’s ancestors, and, of course, gratitude.
Some tribes will hold Winter Solstice ceremonies where they spend a few days prior to making prayer sticks, which they’ll plant in the ground during the ceremony. Others hold days long festivals that are sacred and not for the public eye, like in the Zuni Pueblo tribes. In others, (and similarly to Christmas), there can be gift-giving with one important difference—The Handsome Fellow.
Who Is The Handsome Fellow?
Tribes like the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, among others, choose to honor their own gift-giving mystic, The Handsome Fellow. Just like with Thanksgiving and the spirit of gratitude, gift-giving was already a large part of many tribal communities, so it’s no surprise that many adopted the European Christmas or made Santa Claus synonymous with the Creek leader Chief Hobbythacco (translating to “handsome fellow”). It was customary for people of the tribe to give gifts to their chief, and usually, the chief would happily share this same bounty with the people, particularly those in need.
Chief Hobbythacco was known for being both benevolent and kind. Legend has it that The Handsome Fellow, or Chief Hobbythacco, dressed in white buckskin as a symbol of his kindness, giving gifts to children. This was traditionally practiced throughout the year but has now become synonymous with Christmas.
It’s the Giving Season
So that “Go around the table and say what you’re thankful for” bit isn’t just a one-day way of thinking. Generations before the Wampanoag tribe sat down with English settlers—marking the “first Thanksgiving feast”—many Indigenous people were already living by the rule of gratitude.
Since this is a Native American philosophy, some have made peace with the past, and rather than celebrate the first Thanksgiving feast, the holiday is a celebration honoring the ancient practice of gratitude, creation, community, and the harvest.
The perspectives and traditions for non-Native holidays vary from tribe to tribe, and family to family within the tribe. As long as one respects the true origins and history of Native American culture, there is really no right or wrong way to enjoy the season. When celebrating any holiday, be mindful and consider where your traditions truly come from. Take into account who you are honoring, and how you can do so in a compassionate manner.
Jacqueline Keeler, a writer, activist, and member of the Dineh Nation and Yankton Dakota Sioux said it best when questioned about her decision to celebrate Thanksgiving: “It was their way [Native Americans] to give freely to those who had nothing. Among many of our peoples, showing that you can give without holding back is the way to earn respect.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Many reservations do not have the proper funding or care they need and as a result, many look forward to the holidays and the donations made possible through fantastic organizations like Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA), Association of Indian Affairs, Native American Heritage Association, Navajo Water Project, and the Native American Rights Fund, among so many others. If you truly want to make a difference in the Native American community and aid in their cause, donate to a local tribe today.
Thank you for your consideration. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions.
Felina Silver Robinson
League of Women Voters Brookline, Board Member, Civic Education Coordinator, Board Liaison, Sara K. Wallace Fund for LWVB & Legislative Envoy
It is that of the Hopi Indians.
Did you guess right?
Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans” and for three years they adopted such a day.
He was born in 1881 to parents Frederick Ely Parker who was half Seneca who was married to Geneva Hortenese Griswold who was English and Scottish, she was a teacher on the Seneca on reservation.
The Brookline Police Department, in partnership with the Brookline Police Union, Brookline Rotary and Brookline High School, is sponsoring its 2nd annual Thanksgiving Feast on Thursday November 17, 2022. Dinner will be served at 5:30PM at Brookline High School (115 Greenough St in the new Tappan Green space in the STEM Wing) and we would love members of our community to join us! Please use this form to RSVP to the feast so that we can prepare enough food. https://forms.gle/xY9cE34BVpietxBY6 We look forward to seeing you there!
Sergeant Casey Hatchett
Brookline Police Department
Community Service Division
Emergency Preparedness/CERT Coordinator