November is Native American heritage month. For me, I celebrate it all year round. Come Thanksgiving week, I am pulled by the beat of a different drum, a Native drum. You see, my birthday falls on Thanksgiving Day every 4 years or so (both joy and sadness). This year it falls two days after T-Day. This day, along with Columbus Day in October I do not celebrate. That would be like celebrating the genocide of my own people. T-Day week is our “Days of Mourning” with lots of prayers, singing, Talking Circles (to process the trauma), comfort, support, kindness, compassion, giveaways, sweat lodges and some fasting. We usually end the week with celebration in honor of our ancestors and the fact that we are still here, alive and strong all over this Nation. We feast, celebrate, and enjoy our relatives and friends, and yes, we do give thanks to our Creator, the Great Spirit for our very being and for being provided for. If you’d like to know more about the true story of Thanksgiving you can read it here: http://www.manataka.org/page269.html
This month we celebrate a new tradition: “Rock Your Mocs.” We wear our moccasins every day for a whole week, yes, even at work! This year it falls November 12-18. If you see me I’ll be wearing my mocs or mukluks, depending on how cold it is here! Please, I do ask, in honor of my Native relatives, that you do not sport moccasins that week if you are not native. It’s just a courtesy like not dressing up with a feather headdress on Halloween!
Of special importance is the honoring of our ancestors. Our ancestors, we believe are always with us, guiding us, teaching us, if we listen and see! We honor their lives and their spirits. Our strength is in their numbers on the other side and our elders who pass on cultural traditions. So is our peril if we do not remember them or bother to learn from them.
Honoring our ancestors is honoring ourselves as a people. So too, is the honoring of the ancestors of African Americans and their slave ancestors in this country, and the rich history of their ancestors in Africa. The Japanese and Chinese Americans (and I’m sure some other Asians as well) who also were put on reservations better known as Internment Camps during WWII. America has a rich history of genocide of people with a lot more melanin.
This year give thanks for your ability and willingness to honor the rich and diverse histories and cultures of People of Color in this Nation. Indigenous Peoples, African peoples, Asian Peoples all built this Nation through their blood sweat and tears, and many times their very lives, literally! And please know that this is not to offend anyone, but to enlighten and hopefully open minds to see clearly the plight of people of color in this Nation. Diversity is always a blessing if we can ever learn to embrace it!
I Honor You!
Rev. Dr. Sandy Range