First off, I better say that I don’t at all speak for the entire Lakota Nation, I am one Lakota and these are my opinions about the holiday called Thanksgiving.
When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was huge. My grandma’s entire family, (or it seemed like it) would come and certain ones would bring certain dishes, one would bring homemade pickles, which I LOVED. I remember my Grandma Dod taking up for me one year when her sister, the one who made the homemade pickles, was getting mad because all I wanted were pickles on my plate.
“IF SHE WANTS PICKLES, SHE CAN HAVE PICKLES!!” My Grandma Dod hollered and that was that. I only ate pickles that year.
The older I became, the smaller and more insignificant Thanksgiving became. It was still a family gathering, just a more intimate setting. The smallest one ever, being my three sons and I when I was in college in St. Paul, MN. That was the year we didn’t have a roasting pan and I had to break the poor bird’s legs to make it fit in the cake pan. I screamed when I did it. Thanksgiving just gradually became less of a big deal and more of a grand meal. Like the Super Bowl, sans commercials.
I’m not sure what to think about the meaning of it, or the significance of the Mayflower, Plymouth Rock, Pilgrims and such, nor do I really care. I honestly know that if it was the Lakota, they wouldn’t have done what Squanto, (the Wampanoag who taught the Pilgrims to grow corn and fish) would have done. After all he done for the Pilgrims, he was enslaved and sent on tour in Europe. Hell no, a Lakota would not have ever been in that predicament.
As a Lakota, the holiday is kind of what I said, a grand meal, a few days off of school for the kids, and football. My family has a Wopila ceremony, or thanksgiving ceremony, we celebrate every year at the end of the summer season, giving thanks to the thunder beings for another season. This is the annual thanksgiving I celebrate with my tiyospaye (extended family) that has meaning to me. The huge feast that many families within our tiyospaye contribute to. This is a part of our way of life.
I must say though, that giving thanks is not set aside for one day out of the year for the Lakota. Just as we don’t set one day of the week aside for the Creator, Wakan Tanka. We don’t give praise only on Sundays. As Lakota, our way of life is we get up every morning, we give thanks to the Creator for another day, for our families, for our health, for the fact that we were placed here on the Earth as a Lakota, because when you are born Lakota and know you will live your whole life as a Lakota, and you will die as a Lakota, you know how blessed you are. As my father told us “Every day here on Earth is a gift, whether it is too hot, or too cold, every day is a gift to you. Make the most of it.”
So, I will eat some turkey, spend time with family, watch some football, and do all the things, go through the motions of Thanksgiving in America, but I will continue to be thankful every day for the rest of my life that I was born a Lakota and that I know who I am and where I come from.