Really digging the trinket box I painted on my birthday: wampum hearts with my family’s symbol, shallow water on the shore (a nod to the etymology of #Pequot), an Eastern basket; and, of course, wechêkum (the ocean) inside. This reminded me how much I enjoy crafting/small art projects. 🎨🌊🐚🌾💜✨
What are you reading to stay grounded?
Núnnowa blessings from the Simonds clan 🌊🐚💫 our ancestors were among the few survivors of the first AmeriKKKan Thanksgivings in New England.
This is a hard time of year for me, not only because of the origins of this holiday, but because my paternal grandparents both passed in November. It was very important to them that we were in community with our Native people here. And so while I miss them sorely today, I’m also grateful for their teachings. I’m grateful for my Pequot relations, my maternal grandmother’s people who have welcomed me back. She passed when my mother was a year old, and it all but severed our connection.
It’s been really, really hard.
But I’m thankful for the land and the fact that we are still on it. I’m thankful I was able to go to Mashantucket to be with my Pequot family, enrolled and unenrolled, Eastern and Western. I’m thankful that while I could not go to the exact site of the Mystic Massacre in Connecticut, I went to the river. I’m thankful that the water remembers. At the base of a tree on the riverbed, I put down an offering for the ancestors. With both hands on the frigid earth, I wept for our dead.
Reconnection is not easy. Particularly when your grandparents left this earth too soon. Particularly when you are a “mixed“ city NDN. (I use quotations because Euro-American ideas about blood purity and race as biology are false). There will always be naysayers; there will always be anti-Blackness.
But the world still turns. The land does not forget. And the good thing about Thanksgiving is that it eventually ends.
As an Eastern Woodland person living in (so-called) New England, November is my least favorite month. Truly. I feel like I have to say this every year, but I am tired of non-Native people reciting the origins of the first Thanksgiving ad nauseam: we get it. You’re woke. Great. Now what?
All of that said, here are some reflection questions to help our non-Native friends navigate this month.
1) Do you only think about Native people in November? If so, why? Every time you interact with a Native person, do you expect to be educated, spiritually enlightened, exonerated? Consider that it’s (re)traumatizing and exhausting to recount histories of genocide. Be mindful of how much space you take up.
2) What do you do with your knowledge of the origins of Thanksgiving? Do you relate to the genocide of Native people merely as a fact to throw out at dinner with your problematic family? As a Pequot person, I not only know the history of Thanksgiving; I live with it. As a trained historian, I am interested in the process by which Thanksgiving was constructed. It also matters that we investigate what that process says about what it means to American — and at whose expense.
3) Do you uplift the voices of Eastern Woodland people, particularly Wampanoag and Pequot folks, in revisionist histories of Thanksgiving? If you are asking Native people from the Plains and Southwest to speak for Eastern people, as if we are not here to speak for ourselves, you are replicating violence and erasure.
4) Do you know about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Womxn and Girls? Indigenous womxn and girls are kidnapped and murdered at horrific rates all over Turtle Island, on reservations and in cities, and very infrequently with any consequences or media coverage. Consider how this violence is a continuation of genocide.
5) Does your Native American Heritage Month engage what is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border? Are you aware that many people from Central America are fleeing U.S.-sponsored violence? That they are overwhelmingly Indigenous or of Indigenous descent? There is a relationship between what we are seeing and the violence of Thanksgiving. As Mark Twain (allegedly) once said, History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.
Who else was in love with the sunset last night?
It’s almost 100 degrees in Rhode Island, so of course we in Providence are out here the f*ck cuttin up. How are yall beating the heat?
You surviving, or you thriving?
Have you been doing your shadow work this season?
What has scared you? Did you run from it, or into it?
How are you going to stunt in this next season? How are you going to find your courage? How will you surprise yourself?
And most importantly: do you feel the heat breaking?
Visiting with grandmother 🌝🌱🌊👵🏽✨
Thanksgiving Day in New England: always strange, convoluted, fraught with intersectional complexities.
On one hand, it’s a day my family gathers, cook traditional Black foods, and fellowship. Holiday dinners are some of the few times of the year, in fact, that I feel unequivocally Black in a way that no one can contest or take from me. Surrounded my by relatives, lots of laughter, and stories, I once again understand myself in the context of the Black community of Rhode Island.
But what lingers, too, is the sadness around this holiday for those of us who are also Native in the family. So before we gather, I’m holding space for my Wampanoag relatives, as well as my Pequot relatives and ancestors.
And in light of my own disconnection and reconnection from my Pequot family and lineage, that is very difficult for me to engage with. I resent deeply much of the way people talk about the brutality my ancestors endured: It’s a holiday that celebrates genocide, killing off all the Native Americans and kicking them off their land. Well-meaning folks have said this to my face as if I’m not still here, on my land, fighting to be seen. As if I do not carry a special, pointed sorrow at being 26 and just now becoming conversational in my language. As if I am not acutely ashamed of the ways in which I have been disconnected from community and culture.
These are layers I don’t expect everyone to understand, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s nothing to become maudlin over. Far be it from me to police anyone’s tone. All I can do is endeavor to be as authentic as possible and offer loving suggestions when I think we can do better.
To my Wampanoag and Pequot family, I see you. To my non-Native friends, I see you, too; and I’d invite you to do your own work and not rely on Native people rehashing their trauma for your enlightenment. In telling “real story” of Thanksgiving, I invite you to hold space for the fact that living Native people in New England are still grappling with the effects of this particular act of genocide.
It’s not about policing; it’s about shifting your frame of reference. I say this in love. I say this because I think we can do better.
Happy Thanksgiving. Or not. Here’s to family, to friends, to remembering, to healing, to our futures.
I did not partake in any celebrations this year: instead, when I finished my work today, I rested. As Indigenous people we believe we have to be 10x better, that we always have to be “on,” ready to educate and engage. We exist in a society that links self-worth to productivity inside of a settler colonial/capitalist narrative. So here’s a gentle reminder to all you fine Native people out there to take care of yourself, because you’re poppin and you deserve it. Happy Indigenous People’s Day, netompaûog 💗✨