Native American Heritage and Thanksgiving – A Resources Diary

Savor Thanksgiving

( – promoted by navajo)

(cross-posted from DailyKos)

American Indians, Native people, Native Americans – somehow Thanksgiving is one of the times in the year when I hear the word ‘Indian’ most often (unless casinos or a sports team are in the news). 

Which is no doubt why November is Native American Heritage Month.  Though I can’t say I’ve seen any mainstream (ie, not on a blog) PR for that this year.  Have you?  Maybe it’s just me… 

In any case, would you like to know more about Native American lives now, understand more about the past history, find out where they live, what they’re working for, how they vote in your state?  How easy it is for them to register to vote in your state?

Or have you wondered about the truth behind the myths of Thanksgiving?  If you know about all that, ever wish you had an alternative curriculum for your local school teachers? 

Or would you just like some conversation pieces for the family dinner on Thursday?  Or a fry bread recipe?

Follow me over…

I learned about the American Indian Movement as a child in the 70s.  If you have no clue who they were and are, you could start with the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties.

My father worked with members of AIM, some of whom came to dinner and invited us to a couple of pow-wows.  At my progressive elementary school our teachers taught us a little about what really happened to the Indians in Minnesota, and invited a Lakhota speaker to visit our class.  She brought one of the 5th graders up to the front and by talking to him warmly and unintelligibly in her language, got him to agree to sell her back the state, with a handshake.

But I think the most visible Indian I knew (other than the possibly ersatz anti-littering one in the ad), was Buffy Sainte-Marie, singer, and still very current activist.  Her songs are powerful, and sadly, as with too many anti-war songs from the Vietnam era, not particularly dated.

Her music was blacklisted by LBJ, but is still very much available, and known around the world.  And the royalties she earns go a lot farther than her personal bank account.

She became a singer after getting her PhD.  She had expected to eventually become a teacher on a reservation, but took a break to try the coffeehouse folksinger circuit.  With the fortune she made from her music career, she founded The Nihewan Foundation for Native American Education, and later, the Cradleboard Teaching Project , both of which are very active now.

I also remember her from Sesame Street (some good pictures).  I recently read this:

During the five years that Buffy Sainte-Marie spent as a semi-regular on “Sesame Street”, it was always her hope to convey in the Native American episodes one message above all: Indians Exist. We are alive and real, and we have fun and friends and families and a whole lot to contribute to the rest of the world through our reality.

But as I grew up, I learned that most people I met had some ideas about American Indians but often little knowledge of Native history in this country, or if they had that, they often knew little to nothing about what is actually happening now, both the good and the bad (beyond casinos of course).  And in recent years, I had fallen completely out of touch myself.  It’s easy to do if you don’t actually know any Indians well, even if you’re interested. You won’t see that news on TV, or even hear it on NPR very often.  They still seem to be a minority among minorities, just under 3 million according to the 2003 census data.

So, I thought I’d write up a quick list of resources for this November and Thanksgiving.  Let me know what glaring gaps you see in the list, I’m looking to know more myself.

To begin with, I found this Thanksgiving curriculum, called Teaching About Thanksgiving on a site full of other good documents and resources called EWebTribe. The curriculum is for children, but I wish everyone would read at least the introduction (by a Native historian and school teacher), and pass it on to any teachers you know. Recipes, a craft, and other ideas for teaching are included.

There is a museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, called Plimoth Plantation  They publish a beautiful book that corrects the myths of the “Pilgrim” settlers and Thanksgiving, and they also have this Thanksgiving FAQ on their website.  I’m taking my kids there in a few years when they’re both old enough to grasp it all.

To learn more about current events, here’s some places you can start – there’s so much out there, I’m scratching the surface, but I’m hoping there will be additions in the comments!  My time is limited and constantly interrupted…

To begin with, there are 562 federally acknowledged tribal entities, not including Alaska natives (who have their own list of over 300, also available through that link).

Tribal entities have the right to form their own governments, to tax, to enforce criminal and civil laws, to establish membership, license and regulate activities, zone, and exclude persons from tribal territories.  Though those rights have been stepped on with great regularity.  The limitations on their power include the limitations placed on states (no independent foreign relations, currency, wars, etc).

If you haven’t already seen it, visit Native American Netrootsnavajo started that one, a great place to start, and it seems to be the best place to find interested Kossacks, though JammerML suggested not long ago that a RedKos diary series be started on DailyKos – does anyone know if this has been taken up since then? 

Indian Country Today bills itself as The Nations’ Leading American Indian News Source (and yes, that apostrophe placement is intentional). 

Online radio stations include:
AIROS Native Network
First Voices Indigenous Radio

Here’s a list of links to Tribal websites – who is closest to you?

The Bureau of Indian Affairs – our tax dollars at work…

A few years ago there was a PBS special that profiled four Lakota families, and life on the Pine Ridge reservation.  It’s titled Homeland and the website is still up with a lot of material from the show, pictures of the families on the reservation, and even a frybread recipe  (with additional instructions for making it into “Indian tacos” – I’ve also had it with powdered sugar, maple syrup, and straight as a side bread).

For the “Electing Democrats” angle – how do Native Americans vote?  Here’s a report from the 2004 election

For more data and demographics, here’s the
American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) Data and Links
website from the Census Bureau.  They’re here all right.  Check out the data for your state.

Offline, here’s a couple of books for you if you don’t know much about Native history in this country:
Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown is the classic. And once you’ve read that, follow it up with:

Lakota Woman – Mary Crow Dog – a more recent memoir.

What got me going on all of this again was, of course, Norman Bier’s original diary on Pretty Bird Woman House last spring, which got me involved, trying to find ways to support the shelter.  I’ve been delighted to see so many Kossacks stepping up with more and more offers of help, donations, and the publicity.  It sounds like the Amnesty International event on Nov. 15th was a great success and even more is likely to come of that – the shelter may be able to buy that house across from the police station soon!  If you want to help, just go on over to the ChipIn (or send your rich auntie).

But also, take a look at some of what has already been accomplished. Sacred Circle, is a national resource center located on the incredibly poor Pine Ridge reservation is the model and center for the work that is being done to end violence against Native women. 

However there is no doubt at all that they need all the help they can get!

So, this November, do some reading, learn about the issues, find out what you can do, and take some positive action of your own.  Give something back to the Indians. 

And never forget to be thankful for all you have, and all we have in this irreplaceable beautiful land we live in, together. 

Here’s to a better future for all Americans.


  1. so here it is!

    There were some interesting comments in my DailyKos original diary – Owlwoman mentioned the Ghost Feast that is celebrated in November, though I’m not clear on what tribes celebrate it – she’s in the Bay Area, but I also found mention of it on sites from Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin.  Anyone know more about the history of that feast?

  2. Native American Network Blasts Off
    Launches Nevada Voter Effort, New Video,

    Dear INDN Friend,

    On November 1, we launched the next chapter of the empowerment of Indian Country. On that day we fielded a staff of professional Indian organizers to register voters on Nevada’s 24 reservations – the start of the Native American Network (NAN). 

    Our team of trained Indian organizers is boosting Indian participation in the caucuses to unprecedented levels by registering Indians to vote, conducting caucus trainings, locating caucuses on many of the state’s 24 Indian reservations, and turning out Indians on Caucus Day.  With Nevada a new battleground in the primary race, our organizers are maximizing the influence of native voices in the Nevada caucus process and allowing us to showcase the growing influence of Indian Country in the political process.

    Visit our brand new website at to learn about NAN and to support our efforts in Nevada.

    But what we’re doing in Nevada is only the first step. Building on our success there, we will expand to six other battleground states in the 2008 election. These states are ripe for Indians to become THE swing vote in 2008. As leading political pollster Celinda Lake notes in our new video: 

    “In these new battleground states … the native vote is a key electoral vote. This is a vote that’s completely Progressive. It’s a huge percentage of the vote in these new swing states.

    With more than 3.2 million voting age Indians in the United States, Indian votes comprise a bloc roughly the size of all-important Iowa. That’s why we’re mobilizing Indian votes in critical battleground states like Arizona, New Mexico, Washington, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Nevada. These states will be the most hotly contested states in the 2008 presidential election, and when Indians swing them we can make sure Indian Country is just as important to our nation’s leaders as Florida and Ohio.

    We need your support today so that we can move into all our targeted battleground states in 2008.

    The Native American Network, a project of the INDN’s List Education Fund (ILEF), is the first targeted, nationwide effort to build political power at the grassroots level in Indian Country. Registering voters and turning them out on Election Day will be a major part of NAN’s efforts, but the ultimate goal of this project is to consolidate the political power garnered through the voting process and develop it into the ability to advocate for positive change in Indian Country and across America on an ongoing basis

    I founded ILEF to change the tragic conditions of Indian Country by empowering Indians to join the political process and build a better future for all.  By educating both candidates and voters, holding politicians accountable to Americans, and mobilizing Indian votes, ILEF is working to make sure our First Americans are no longer the last Americans to be represented.

    On November 29 we will introduce the political world to our efforts, with a launch reception for the Native American Network. The reception will be held November 29, 2007, at the Winter Meeting of the Democratic National Committee, in Tysons Corner, Virginia. Details are available on our website,

    In Nevada, we are busy changing the way politics is played in Indian Country, but we need your help to achieve our goals for 2008. 

    We need your investment today so we can turn out that vote in swing states like Washington, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Michigan, and make sure that When Indians Vote, America Wins.


    Kalyn Free


  3. Not many Democrats realize how important the ndn vote is to the Democrat majority in the Senate and to a lesser degree in the House too. South Dakota is a red state and without our votes there’s no way Johnson would have even been competitive or Herseth would have won in the House. Both of them admit it freely and have responded to our needs in a way not usually done for us. Same thing in Montana for Senator Testor. Our votes make the difference for Boren in Oklahoma and several Congressmen and women across the west. Our problem is that this news isn’t known among most Americans so of course they don’t know of the modern political sophistication native people have to have in todays ndn world. Without the ndn vote Republicans still control the Senate and there is no Democrat majority. How many Democrats realize that fact?

  4. A good beginning is Jack Weatherfords, “Indian Givers” which dispite the title is a book about native contributions to the modern world. A new book named “1491” compiles recent scientific evidence about America before the whiteman came. It’s an eye opener regarding our population b.c. (before columbus)and how we maintained our environment. I believe a good resource book about our people is called “Native American Contributions to the World” at least I hope that’s the proper title for an excellent book. Of course two old classics are “God is Red” by Vine Deloria and Black Elk Speaks” by John Niehardt. A really good ndn book by a non-ndn is “Laughing Boy” by Oliver LaFarge. Good reading.

  5. That’s excellent.  I realized I left a gap on that part – I had originally meant to link to a diary from last spring on DailyKos related to voting rights and access, but couldn’t find it again!  This information is even better.

  6. Celebrates 2006 Candidate’s Appointment to Key State Committee

    Quick Links

    INDN’s List

    Contact Us

    Sign Up!

    Dear INDN Friend,

    We are excited to announce that we have joined the national progressive community in raising our online contributions through ActBlue.  ActBlue is a Federal PAC that enables anyone – individuals, local groups, and national organizations – to fundraise for Democratic candidates and organizations of their choice, raising over $33 million since its 2004 launch.

    Our move to ActBlue will make it possible for you to contribute directly to our 2008 candidates and to enable you, our most important supporters, to raise money for INDN’s List from your own “social network.”

    ActBlue will make it easier than ever for you to join our Warrior’s Circle.  YOU can help us celebrate our move to ActBlue by joining our Warrior’s Circle, in 3 ways:

    1. Make an online contribution of:

    2. Set up an automatic recurring contribution of $83.33 a month for the next 12 months:

    3. Raise $1,000 from your friends, family, and fellow Progressives by setting up your own fundraising page for INDN’s List, or adding INDN’s List to your already existing fundraising page.

    Help us make 2008 an even bigger year for INDN’s List and our endorsed candidates. Join our Warrior’s Circle with a one-time contribution of $1,000 or a monthly recurring contribution of $83.33, or set up your fundraising page by next Friday, December 19, and we will thank you in an email to our network of over 12,000 supporters and on the front page of our website!

    In that email, we’ll post a link and send our contributions through the fundraising page of the first INDN Friend to set up their page through ActBlue – making it even easier for you to join the Warrior’s Circle. Don’t delay, set up your page right now!

    Our Warriors are what make it possible to help dozens of outstanding Indian candidates run for and win public office around the country, and we like to highlight the accomplishments of some of those winning candidates from time to time.

    Today, we’re proud to announce that Senator Sean Burrage, a freshman senator from Claremore, Oklahoma, and a member of the Choctaw Nation, has been appointed by Senate leadership to the Joint Committee on State-Tribal Relations. The committee overseas and approves agreements between tribal government and the State of Oklahoma, and as such is critical to promoting a healthy relationship between tribal and state government, protecting tribal sovereignty for Oklahoma’s tribes, and making sure that American Indians have a voice in their democracy.

    You can read the full announcement on our website, at We are proud of Senator Burrage and all our INDN officials who are making sure that the First Americans aren’t the Last Americans to be represented.

    Celebrate Senator Burrage’s accomplishments and our move to ActBlue today by joining our Warrior’s Circle right now, or by setting up your own fundraising page today!


    Kalyn Free


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.