This week there are a ton of tribes celebrating Indigenous People’s Day. It’s also my birthday today and I’m heading toward my rez to celebrate like it’s 1491… or I guess in our case it would be party like it’s 1773, the first significant contact we had with Spanish explorers. But I remember those days when we didn’t celebrate Indigenous People’s day.
In kindergarten I had an amazingly brilliant teacher who acted stupid on the holiday formerly known as Columbus Day and holiday currently known as Thanksgiving. She dressed us up like pilgrims and fake Native Americans on those days.
I’m sure some of you remember. You would get some construction paper, glue, and start making your costumes. Everyone wanted to be Native, because the crafts looked better and plus Natives are romanticized so much by society as being warriors and running barefoot with the wind that it made the idea of being Native awesome. And let’s face it, pilgrims historically sucked. Being a pilgrim in class only involved black and white paper and making a nun type hat to put on your head. But if you were a fake Native in class, you got all the colorful construction paper for feathers, and got the foil to make all your silver turquoise bling.
Well, only half the class could be Native and half could be Pilgrims. And for that day, everyone wanted to be Native. Only problem was, it was done by lottery. Like you picked a race from a hat. And I remember thinking in my mind, I can’t wait to be a Native. I still didn’t quite understand that I was Native, but I knew better than to want to be a pilgrim. Like what were they known for, other than being diseased.
You can see where I’m headed with this. It was my turn to pick from the hat, and as I was praying to be a Native for the day, God played a joke on me. That brilliant ignorant teacher said, “you get to be a pilgrim.” Like what the!!! I’m a pilgrim. I sat there all mad, making my black and white hat and felt inferior to the Natives in the class. And all I can think now is, “The one day when everyone wanted to be Native was the day I didn’t get to be one.”