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November 30, 2013

This Day in the Maya Calendar: December 2013

Cholq'ij, the Maya sacred ceremonial calendar of 260 days—a cycle of 20 Day deities and 13 numbers—is the basis of the Maya spirituality that survives to this time, practiced daily among millions of Maya people, in thousands of communities. The interpretation of the days can vary from one Maya people to another. The interpretations given here are based on sustained conversations and participation over three decades with Maya Q'eqchi calendar priest Roderico Teni and daykeeping families in the area of Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, by Jose Barreiro (Taíno), head of NMAI’s Office of Latin America, and his wife, Katsi Cook (Mohawk). Glyphs representing the Day lords appear throughout Maya Country; these were painted by Esteban Pop Caal (Q'eqchi Maya) of Cobán.

For more background to this series, please see Jose's introduction, "Living in the Practice." For further insight into the role of the Day lords in everyday life, please see the Maya Journal. For the complete year so far, please see the Maya calendar archive.

Illustrations: Esteban Pop Caal (Q'eqchi Maya), calendar glyphs. Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala; 2003. Paint on wood. Purchased from the artist. 26/2685. Photos by Ernest Amoroso, NMAI 

2 Tz'ikin  |  Tuesday, December 31, 2013

262685_Tz'ikinCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 2 Tz'ikin. Tz'ikin is Bird, best represented by the Hummingbird, also the Quetzal and Eagle; 2 is duality. Tz'ikin carries messages between the Heart of Earth and Heart of Sky. Cold, heat, light, air, cloud are its elements. Love, intuition, precognition are strong in those born on this day. Tz'ikin is a good day for humans to follow birds to the corn—to find good material luck. This is a good day to ask for revelation and intelligence, for vision, and for abundance; a good day to ask for collaboration in projects or for personal freedom. On this day, women have the privilege to ask for their husbands and sons to triple the family money. —Jose Barreiro 

1 I'x  |  Monday, December 30, 2013 

262685_I'x

Corresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 1 I'x. I'x is Jaguar; 1 is the beginning. I'x is woman's energy day. This is a day to connect with your own land and to pray for its original owners; to pray for and appreciate your house; to pray for the finances to buy and sustain land; to ask for fertility in humans and animals; to request vigor and strength for reproductive organs, particularly female. I'x is a good day to pray to the mountains in favor of the land. It is a good day for a woman to request strength in her husband's commitment to matrimonial stability. People born on I'x have a close relationship to el Mundo and receive good access to precious metals. I'x is a good day for solitude and meditation. —J. B.

13 Aj  |  Sunday, December 29, 2013 

262685_AjCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 13 Aj. Aj is Cane Reed; 13 is the highest turbulence. Aj begins the women's cycle, sentiments of family and home, the spinal cord. Aj is life and receives life. This is a day of resurgence and renewal, as in the reed and the corn; a day for the triumph of good over evil, life over death; a day of happiness, renewal of food, money, the heart of life. People born on this day renew their communities; they are sickly as children and sturdy as adults; they are especially lucky; they are good awakeners of their families and communities; they make good midwives. Aj is a good day to ask for clarity of destiny, a good day to pray for the protection of your life and of the newborn, a good day to pray for twins, a good day to pray for humanity. —J. B. 

12 Eh  |  Saturday, December 28, 2013

262685_EhCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 12 Eh. Eh is Bobcat, also the Path and the Tooth; 12 is the highest balance. Eh can orient individuals, groups, or communities to their destiny. Eh is the day to ask for protection from dangers and obstructions during travels—specifically, that on your road the attention of thieves or highway police or border inspectors will be deviated from your trajectory. Solitude is in Eh, light rain, kindness, alignment. People born on this day can be good counselors, spiritual guides with the gift of prayer to Ajaw (Creator) on the destiny of things. Also, good dentists are born on this day. Eh is one of the four pillars of the 20 days, a Yearbearer—a strong, especially sacred day. A prayer started in Batz can be carried by Eh through the full cycle of 20 days. —J. B.

11 Batz  |  Friday, December 27, 2013

262685_BatzCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 11 Batz. Batz is Monkey; 11 is high turbulence. Monkey braid, monkey fingers, monkey tail, Batz is the grasp of the monkey's hand so tight and braided the fist will not let go, even in death. Batz is a good day for beginnings, and for some Maya daykeepers, Batz begins the 20-day calendar. Batz is unity, a good day to tie things together, a good day for a marriage or to start a construction, a good day for initiation into the ways. Batz is the thread of time that rolls out from under the earth, weaving life until cut, weaving time into history. People born on Batz are calm and self-confident; they make good spiritual guides and leaders, and goodhearted architects. —J. B.  

10 Tzi  |  Thursday, December 26, 2013

262685_Tzi Corresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 10 Tzi. Tzi is the Canine, the guardian; 10 is a high balance. Dog, Wolf, Coyote, Tzi can be snarly, terrifying the unprepared with his bark and his bite. Tzi people are zealous to guard the sacredness of ceremony, to identify and punish "intruders," those not disciplined to participate. Benevolent to friends and fierce to enemies, Tzi is steady to reward or punish. Tzi will punish those who disrespect the Days and the spirit of the family. This is a good day to ask for mystic insight for leaders so that they can seek and discover hidden things, so that they can be just. Tzi has strong sexual energy, hard to restrain. When this energy is defined, people born on Tzi make loyal friends, husbands, and wives. —J. B. 

9 Toj  |  Wednesday, December 25, 2013

262685_TojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 9 Toj. Toj is the mystic Fish—the tear of jade and drops of rain, water falling; 9 is a triple rotor. Toj is a day of making even, a good day to pay spiritual and financial debts and to collect what you are owed. This is a day of evenness for a family, a good day for parents to pay the family's debt to el Mundo, good for the oldest son to appreciate the father and the father to appreciate the mountain. Illness can be deviated from the family by making a ceremonial offering on this day. —J. B.

8 Anil  |  Tuesday, December 24, 2013

262685_AnilCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 8 Anil. Anil is the fertility in the seed, Anil is Rabbit; 8 is a double blance. Anil is red, white, yellow, black—the four colors of corn, the seed of life that is the unity of the world. Anil is renewal after death, regeneration of the earth. Anil people are four-directions people and can be good travelers. This is a day of coming back, a day to generate and appreciate abundance, a day of declaring love to create a new relationship, a day to announce the wish to do business, a day of finding lost things, a day to ask for help in overcoming shyness. —J. B.

7 Kiej  |  Monday, December 23, 2013

262685_KiejCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 7 Kiej. Kiej is the Deer; 7 is a pivotal number. Kiej is the four directions, four hoofs striking the earth at once, the quaternity of the cosmos linked to prayer, highest aviso to el Mundo—the living world. Kiej is the staff of authority, keen energy of a chief to detect danger, perception of the leader buck, his horns. Kiej is a good day to pray for mental and physical agility, a day of agile travelers and good communicators. It is a day also to ask for clarity before gossip and ill intentions. A major gift of nature, Kiej holds indefatigable energy. He is one of the four main carriers of time. —J. B.

6 Kame  |  Sunday, December 22, 2013 

262685_KameCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 6 Kame. Kame is the Owl and the recognition of death; 6 is a middle, even number. A day that recalls the night, tranquility, and silence, Kame is a good day to ask for the ancient and recent ancestors who have gone on, to thank them, and to remember them with purpose. This is an appropriate day to extend reconciliation, to feel and give forgiveness, to develop patience, to invoke against mortal illnesses, to access superior knowledge. Without fear, it is a good day to approach the spiritual dimension, "the enchantment." —Jose Barreiro 

5 Kan  |  Saturday, December 21, 2013 

262685_KanCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 5 Kan. Kan is the Snake; 5 is one hand. Kan is the ancient origin—Gucumatz, the Plumed Serpent. This is a day of strict and impartial justice, a day of definition and maturity, and a good day to offer respect and to thank the corn. On Kan, matters of justice, judges, and courts can be cleared up. This is a good day to pray that truth and justice are manifest in the Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth; a good day to put aside jealousies and request equilibrium in life and in the family. It is a day to ask for physical strength and patience, to contemplate our spiritual evolution, and to rekindle the internal fire. —J. B.  

4 Kat  |  Friday, December 20, 2013

262685_KatCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 4 Kat. Kat is Spider, also Web and Fire; 4 is a balance. On Kat the unity of the people is paramount, and knowledge is deepened. Kat is the network of the sacred heart, the family hearth. Today is a good day to pray for your family fireplace, the spirit of the fire that belongs in the home, the one that calls other spirits to ceremony and speaks for them. Kat is the net that hauls in the fish and the net that holds the ears of corn, a day that can bring the fruition of things and the untangling of complications. This is a good day to help free prisoners from captivity, to request vigor and power for the weak. —J. B.  

3 Aqbal  |  Thursday, December 19, 2013

262685_AqbalCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 3 Aqbal. Aqbal is the Dawn, also Bat; 3 is a triple rotor. Aqbal is clarity, the separation of darkness and light as the Sun disperses the fog and obscurity of night. This is a good day to ask for a peaceful and happy daybreak, a day to find hidden and lost things, a day to wash away tears of sadness. On Aqbal, the sacred fire is recognized and appreciated. Aqbal is a good day to clean the ashes (renew the heart) of a fireplace and to present a new baby to el Mundo. A potential bride or groom can be revealed on this day. Harvesting of corn can begin on this day. People born on Aqbal relate in the present and are a special link between past and future. They are early risers, good workers, tranquil and kind, strong before an enemy, good researchers and finders of hidden things, often called "the candle of the home." —J. B. 

2 Iq  |  Wednesday, December 18, 2013

262685_IqCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 2 Iq. Iq is Wind, also Moon; 2 is duality. Wind is powerful, violent, driven of itself, identity. A day of strong emotion, Iq is also a healing day. Good wind is nutritional for human minds; it is the mystic breath and vital inspiration of nature. On Iq, a breeze or wind that splits against your face is a blessing and a cleansing to purge your head and body of illness. Respiratory ills are prayed over on this day. This is a good day to appreciate all of Creation. The Day lord Iq is one of the four Yearbearers, or mams, a creator who helped finish the world and put breath (essence) in human beings. People born on Iq are inclined toward spiritual ways and can impulsively tap into cosmic sources. —J. B. 

1 Imox  |  Tuesday, December 17, 2013

262685_ImoxCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 1 Imox. Imox is Lizard; 1 is the beginning. Imox is the very force of gravity and a good day to pray for creativity and for rain. Imox can open el Mundo to receive cosmic messages. Known as a "crazy" day, Imox requires much concentration and control. A day of high male intelligence, also impatience and agitation, Imox can be difficult. Grounded on its left side, left arm, this day is easily unbalanced and in need of clasping left and right hands. Imox can be good if held in the balance of the Heart of Sky and Heart of Earth; unattended, Imox can manifest imbalance, mental nervousness, and even death. People born on Imox are open and sincere, but indecisive—in need of ceremony to set the positive to override the negative. —J. B.  

13 Ajpu  |  Monday, December 16, 2013

262685_AjpuCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 13 Ajpu. Ajpu is Caracol, Spiral Shell; 13 is the highest turbulence. Ajpu is the Sun, captain of time, a day of personal strength and for good to triumph over evil. Ajpu, who cares for boys and guides men, begins the men's cycle. This is a day to connect with the ancestors, who can reward and punish. Death is reachable and amenable; spirits can ask permission to enter el Mundo, the living world. Day of the warrior and blowgun hunter (cerbatanero), Ajpu is the strong blow of the dart that hits its target, a good day to pray for stealth or for a break in enemy lines. Ajpu is also a good day to start building on a house, a good day to make prayers for women and for success in lactation. —J. B. 

12 Kawoq  |  Sunday, December 15, 2013 

262685_KawoqCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 12 Kawoq. Kawoq is Turtle, also Sky Serpent; 12 is the highest balance hand. Kawoq is a high woman day—a day of duality in all of nature and a guardian of contentment. It is the day of woman and man, lightning and thunder, fecundity and imagination; a day of midwives; a day of prayer for unity within the home, strength within the family, renewed strength for convalescents, and the smoothing of all irritation. This is a good day to turn bad medicine back on itself. Kawoq attends to young women in pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and to full realization for all women; it is a day of their sash. Kawoq is also a good day to commemorate the Staff of Authority, a good day for the men of a family and community to pray for the coffers (good fortune) of the women and for the protection of the home. Good midwives, writers, and architects are born on this day. —J. B. 

11 Tijax  |  Saturday,  December 14, 2013

262685_TijaxCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 11 Tijax. Tijax is Fish, also Obsidian; 11 is high turbulence. Tijax is a day of doctors, good to pray for surgeons and all medical practitioners; a day of sacrifice and liberation from suffering; a day of sharp, cutting objects, of knives and scalpels and scissors. Tijax is a safeguard for domestic animals against predators, a good day to pray for all animals that are sacrificed, both in ceremony and in everyday life. Tijax is a good day to use metal (a machete, scissors) to "open the sky"—to solicit rain, solicit life, split black clouds. Gossip, calumny, and sorcery, on money and sexual matters, can be overcome on this day; on a high-number day, disputes can turn public and become debilitating. Tijax is a good day for seasoned masters to fortify daykeeping trainees against ridicule by envious countrymen or evangelicos. It is not a good day to plant. —J. B. 

10 Noj  |  Friday, December 13, 2013

262685_NojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 10 Noj. Noj is Woodpecker; 10 is a high balance. Noj is a woman's highest intelligence. Maya knowledge and wisdom live in this day—good science to support positive deeds, good projects, good business, a good home. On Noj good ideas are available through the intelligence connected to the movement of the earth. Boys born on this day have important female qualities and can be attentive to the knowledge of nature, which rules all. Girls born on this day can be clear leaders. This is a good day to hear advice and make decisions, a good day to feed the mind, recognize curiosity, and strengthen memory. Noj is one of the four Yearbearers. —J. B. 

9 Ajmac  |  Thursday, December 12, 2013

6a01156f5f4ba1970b01a511a2ada0970c-200wiCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 9 Ajmac. Ajmac is Bee, also Vulture; 9 is a triple rotor. On Ajmac ancestor spirits can detect and smooth the thread of time in our lives. Prudence, intelligence, ancient wisdom are in this day. This is a day to plead forgiveness for serious faults and to be judged. It is a day that demands moral rectitude, respect, and sincere analysis. On this day our faults (stains) must be faced and paid for; humble request for pity is encouraged. Ajmac is a propitious day for the women of a household to make peace with one another after conflict, to apologize for sharp words; it is a good day to pray for smooth relationships and the renewal of agreements among women. Hard luck can face those born on Ajmac. —J. B. 

8 Tz'ikin  |  Wednesday, December 11, 2013

262685_Tz'ikinCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 8 Tz'ikin. Tz'ikin is Bird, best represented by the Hummingbird, also the Quetzal and Eagle; 8 is a double balance. Tz'ikin carries messages between the Heart of Earth and Heart of Sky. Cold, heat, light, air, cloud are its elements. Love, intuition, precognition are strong in those born on this day. Tz'ikin is a good day for humans to follow birds to the corn—to find good material luck. This is a good day to ask for revelation and intelligence, for vision, and for abundance; a good day to ask for collaboration in projects or for personal freedom. On this day, women have the privilege to ask for their husbands and sons to triple the family money. —J. B. 

7 I'x  |  Tuesday, December 10, 2013 

262685_I'x

Corresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 7 I'x. I'x is Jaguar; 7 is a pivotal number. I'x is woman's energy day. This is a day to connect with your own land and to pray for its original owners; to pray for and appreciate your house; to pray for the finances to buy and sustain land; to ask for fertility in humans and animals; to request vigor and strength for reproductive organs, particularly female. I'x is a good day to pray to the mountains in favor of the land. It is a good day for a woman to request strength in her husband's commitment to matrimonial stability. People born on I'x have a close relationship to el Mundo and receive good access to precious metals. I'x is a good day for solitude and meditation. —J. B.  

6 Aj  |  Monday, December 9, 2013 

262685_AjCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 6 Aj. Aj is Cane Reed; 6 is a middle, even number. Aj begins the women's cycle, sentiments of family and home, the spinal cord. Aj is life and receives life. This is a day of resurgence and renewal, as in the reed and the corn; a day for the triumph of good over evil, life over death; a day of happiness, renewal of food, money, the heart of life. People born on this day renew their communities; they are sickly as children and sturdy as adults; they are especially lucky; they are good awakeners of their families and communities; they make good midwives. Aj is a good day to ask for clarity of destiny, a good day to pray for the protection of your life and of the newborn, a good day to pray for twins, a good day to pray for humanity. —J. B. 

5 Eh  |  Sunday, December 8, 2013

262685_EhCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 5 Eh. Eh is Bobcat, also the Path and the Tooth; 5 is one hand. Eh can orient individuals, groups, or communities to their destiny. Eh is the day to ask for protection from dangers and obstructions during travels—specifically, that on your road the attention of thieves or highway police or border inspectors will be deviated from your trajectory. Solitude is in Eh, light rain, kindness, alignment. People born on this day can be good counselors, spiritual guides with the gift of prayer to Ajaw (Creator) on the destiny of things. Also, good dentists are born on this day. Eh is one of the four pillars of the 20 days, a Yearbearer—a strong, especially sacred day. A prayer started in Batz can be carried by Eh through the full cycle of 20 days. —J. B. 

4 Batz  |  Saturday, December 7, 2013

262685_BatzCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 4 Batz. Batz is Monkey; 4 is a balance. Monkey braid, monkey fingers, monkey tail, Batz is the grasp of the monkey's hand so tight and braided the fist will not let go, even in death. Batz is a good day for beginnings, and for some Maya daykeepers, Batz begins the 20-day calendar. Batz is unity, a good day to tie things together, a good day for a marriage or to start a construction, a good day for initiation into the ways. Batz is the thread of time that rolls out from under the earth, weaving life until cut, weaving time into history. People born on Batz are calm and self-confident; they make good spiritual guides and leaders, and goodhearted architects. —J. B.  

3 Tzi  |  Friday, December 6, 2013

262685_TziCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 3 Tzi. Tzi is the Canine, the guardian; 3 is a rotor. Dog, Wolf, Coyote, Tzi can be snarly, terrifying the unprepared with his bark and his bite. Tzi people are zealous to guard the sacredness of ceremony, to identify and punish "intruders," those not disciplined to participate. Benevolent to friends and fierce to enemies, Tzi is steady to reward or punish. Tzi will punish those who disrespect the Days and the spirit of the family. This is a good day to ask for mystic insight for leaders so that they can seek and discover hidden things, so that they can be just. Tzi has strong sexual energy, hard to restrain. When this energy is defined, people born on Tzi make loyal friends, husbands, and wives. —J. B. 

2 Toj  |  Thursday, December 5, 2013

262685_TojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 2 Toj. Toj is the mystic Fish—the tear of jade and drops of rain, water falling; 2 is duality. Toj is a day of making even, a good day to pay spiritual and financial debts and to collect what you are owed. This is a day of evenness for a family, a good day for parents to pay the family's debt to el Mundo, good for the oldest son to appreciate the father and the father to appreciate the mountain. Illness can be deviated from the family by making a ceremonial offering on this day. —J. B. 

1 Anil  |  Wednesday, December 4, 2013

262685_AnilCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 1 Anil. Anil is the fertility in the seed, Anil is Rabbit; 1 is the beginning. Anil is red, white, yellow, black—the four colors of corn, the seed of life that is the unity of the world. Anil is renewal after death, regeneration of the earth. Anil people are four-directions people and can be good travelers. This is a day of coming back, a day to generate and appreciate abundance, a day of declaring love to create a new relationship, a day to announce the wish to do business, a day of finding lost things, a day to ask for help in overcoming shyness. —J. B. 

13 Kiej  |  Tuesday, December 3, 2013

262685_KiejCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 13 Kiej. Kiej is the Deer; 13 is the highest balance. Kiej is the four directions, four hoofs striking the earth at once, the quaternity of the cosmos linked to prayer, highest aviso to el Mundo—the living world. Kiej is the staff of authority, keen energy of a chief to detect danger, perception of the leader buck, his horns. Kiej is a good day to pray for mental and physical agility, a day of agile travelers and good communicators. It is a day also to ask for clarity before gossip and ill intentions. A major gift of nature, Kiej holds indefatigable energy. He is one of the four main carriers of time. —J. B. 

12 Kame  |  Tuesday, December 2, 2013 

262685_KameCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 12 Kame. Kame is the Owl and the recognition of death; 12 is the highest balance. A day that recalls the night, tranquility, and silence, Kame is a good day to ask for the ancient and recent ancestors who have gone on, to thank them, and to remember them with purpose. This is an appropriate day to extend reconciliation, to feel and give forgiveness, to develop patience, to invoke against mortal illnesses, to access superior knowledge. Without fear, it is a good day to approach the spiritual dimension, "the enchantment." —J. B. 

11 Kan  |  Sunday, December 1, 2013 

262685_KanCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 11 Kan. Kan is the Snake; 11 is high turbulence. Kan is the ancient origin—Gucumatz, the Plumed Serpent. This is a day of strict and impartial justice, a day of definition and maturity, and a good day to offer respect and to thank the corn. On Kan, matters of justice, judges, and courts can be cleared up. This is a good day to pray that truth and justice are manifest in the Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth; a good day to put aside jealousies and request equilibrium in life and in the family. It is a day to ask for physical strength and patience, to contemplate our spiritual evolution, and to rekindle the internal fire. —J. B.  

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November 26, 2013

Do American Indians celebrate Thanksgiving?

Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers
The Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers, 2011. Salt Pond, Cape Cod National Seashore. Courtesy of the Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers.

This essay by Dennis Zotigh was widely commented on when he wrote it for Thanksgiving 2011. This year, we're including additional readers' thoughts on Thanksgiving, the first lesson about American Indian history most non-Native children receive.


In thinking about my earliest memories of elementary school, I remember being asked to bring a brown paper sack to class so that it could be decorated and worn as part of the Indian costume used to celebrate Thanksgiving. I was also instructed to make a less-than-authentic headband with Indian designs and feathers to complete this outfit. Looking back, I now know this was wrong.

The Thanksgiving Indian costume that all the other children and I made in my elementary classroom trivialized and degraded the descendants of the proud Wampanoags, whose ancestors attended the first Thanksgiving popularized in American culture. The costumes we wore bore no resemblance to Wampanoag clothing of that time period. Among the Wampanoag, and other American Indians, the wearing of feathers has significance. The feathers we wore were simply mockery, an educator’s interpretation of what an American Indian is supposed to look like.

The Thanksgiving myth has done so much damage and harm to the cultural self-esteem of generations of Indian people, including myself, by perpetuating negative and harmful images to both young Indian and non-Indian minds. There are so many things wrong with the happy celebration that takes place in elementary schools and its association to American Indian culture; compromised integrity, stereotyping, and cultural misappropriation are three examples.

Thanksgiving-Brownscombe
Jennie A. Brownscombe (1850–1936), The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth (1914). Oil paint on canvas. Courtesy of Pilgrim Hall Museum.

When children are young, they are often exposed to antiquated images of American Indians through cartoons, books, and movies. But Thanksgiving re-enactments may be their most active personal encounter with Indian America, however poorly imagined, and many American children associate Thanksgiving actions and images with Indian culture for the rest of their lives. These cultural misunderstandings and stereotypical images perpetuate historical inaccuracy.

Tolerance of mockery by teachers is a great concern to Native parents. Much harm has been done to generations of Indian people by perpetuating negative and harmful images in young minds. Presenting Thanksgiving to children as primarily a happy time trivializes our shared history and teaches a half-truth. And while I agree that elementary-school children who celebrate the first Thanksgiving in their classrooms are too young to hear the truth, educators need to share Thanksgiving facts in all American schools sometime before high school graduation.

Let’s begin with Squanto (aka Tisquantum), a Patuxet, one of more than 50 tribes who formed the Wampanoag Confederacy. Around 1614, when he was perhaps 30, Squanto was kidnapped along with others of his people and taken across the Atlantic Ocean to Malaga, Spain, where they were sold into slavery. Monks in Spain bought Squanto, shared their faith with him, and made it possible for him to find his way to England in 1615. In England he worked for shipbuilder John Slany and became proficient in English. In 1619 Squanto returned to his homeland by joining an exploring expedition along the New England coast. When he arrived at the village where he has been raised, all his family and the rest of his tribe had been exterminated by a devastating plague.

What about the Pilgrims? Separatists who fled from England to Holland seeking to escape religious persecution by English authorities, and who later booked passage to North America, are now called "Pilgrims," though Americans did not widely use the term until the 1870s. In November, 1620, the Mayflower dropped anchor in present-day Provincetown Harbor. After exploring the coast for a few weeks, the Pilgrims landed and began building a permanent settlement on the ruins of Squanto’s Patuxet village, now renamed New Plymouth. Within the first year, half of the 102 Pilgrims who set out from Europe on the Mayflower had perished. In desperation the Pilgrims initially survived by eating corn from abandoned fields, raiding villages for stored food and seed, and robbing graves at Corn Hill.

Squanto was introduced to the Pilgrims in the spring of 1621, became friends with them, and taught them how to hunt and fish in order to survive in New England. He taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn by using fish as fertilizer and how to plant gourds around the corn so that the vines could climb the cornstalks. Due to his knowledge of English, the Pilgrims made Squanto an interpreter and emissary between the English and Wampanoag Confederacy.

What really happened at the first Thanksgiving in 1621? The Pilgrims did not introduce the concept of thanksgiving; the New England tribes already had autumn harvest feasts of thanksgiving. To the original people of this continent, each day is a day of thanksgiving to the Creator.  In the fall of 1621, William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth Colony, decided to have a Plymouth harvest feast of thanksgiving and invited Massasoit, the Grand Sachem of the Wampanoag Federation, to join the Pilgrims. Massasoit came with approximately 90 warriors and brought food to add to the feast, including venison, lobster, fish, wild fowl, clams, oysters, eel, corn, squash and maple syrup. Massasoit and the ninety warriors stayed in Plymouth for three days. These original Thanksgiving foods are far different from the meals prepared in modern Thanksgiving celebrations.

Squanto died in 1622, but Massasoit outlived the era of relative peace in colonial New England. On May 26, 1637, near the present-day Mystic River in Connecticut, while their warriors were away, an estimated 400 to 700 Pequot women, children, and old men were massacred and burned by combined forces of the Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, and Saybrook (Connecticut) colonies and Narragansett and Mohegan allies. Colonial authorities found justification to kill most of the Pequot men and enslave the captured women and their children. Pequot slaves were sent to Bermuda and the West Indies. In 1975 the official number of Pequot people living in Connecticut was 21. Similar declines in Native population took place throughout New England as an estimated three hundred thousand Indians died by violence, and even more were displaced, in New England over the next few decades.

Looking at this history raises a question: Why should Native peoples celebrate Thanksgiving? Many Natives particularly in the New England area remember this attempted genocide as a factual part of their history and are reminded each year during the modern Thanksgiving. I turned to the Internet to find out what Native people think of Thanksgiving. Here are some of the responses I received [in 2011; unfortunately, I didn't include where people were writing from in the original essay]:

I was infuriated when my daughter’s school had a mock feast complete with paper mache headdresses and Pilgrim hats!

When they did that to my kids in elementary, I TORE those items up and signed my kids out of school for that day.

For Thanksgiving I was the Indian. Umm Go figure . . . .

Someone took a picture of me in front of the class, and to this day . . . it bothers me. Don't get the whole making a fest in school.   

Tonight I have to lead a children's Bible class, and they want me to theme it around Thanksgiving. I will, but it's not going to be about the happy pilgrims and all that stuff. Thankfulness to God is one thing, but elevating pilgrims to hero status is out of the question.  

When my daughter Victoria was in grade school she had a teacher give them the assignment to write a report on Thanksgiving dinner, and Victoria wrote hers as to why our family doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving. Victoria got an F on the paper, and I threatened to go to the school board if the principal didn't get it changed. Victoria got an A, and the class got a lesson on Native American heritage. 

Ignorance and not near enough education in the school systems! It is very sad that a majority of what is taught is very superficial and the dark aspects of our history are neatly tucked away.Very sad!

Considered a day of mourning in our house.

For skins [American Indians], Thanksgiving should be The Last Supper. 

And here are a few people's thoughts in 2013: 

Aylett, Virginia: It is good to celebrate the concept of gratitude and thankfulness. When the holiday story is based on a lie that covers up the national moral atrocity of genocide, the statement about the people who celebrate is not good. Shining light on the truth will always bring about healing. 

Montville, Connecticut: Thanksgiving was celebrated for murder and slavery rather than friendship and harvest. 

Greenbelt, Maryland: I don't necessarily look at the holiday as pilgrims-meet-Indians-and-chow-down. I celebrate it as the time the cycle of alcoholism was broken in our family, and we have a feast to celebrate that. 

Norman, Oklahoma: It's pretty much a family reunion for me, and there is eating, visiting, being thankful, and having a good time. Because of that, there is no reason to worry about the history. Similar to the idea that our dances fall on the 4th of July and instead of celebrating independence, it is more like a homecoming to our Kiowa people. 

California: When I went to school there was two Indians in our class me and a hopi girl neither one of us had to endure any of this because her mother and my mother both raised hell with the principal no fake headbands or feathers for us. 

Pala, California: When my kids were in pre-school is when I decided I needed to represent our people at this time of year more than any other. I would be damned if my kids were gonna wear paper bags like the other students. I wasn't having that. I learned to get the story across at their age level and show them the beauty and generosity of our people. I remember growing up and my mom getn upset with me because on Thanksgiving day I would come to the dinner table in my PJs and hair unbrushed, knowing the day was not a celebration. But now that I'm a mother of 3 and a grandmother of 1, I understand as Native people we give thanks to the Creator every day. On Thanksgiving Day I'm just grateful our people are still here and still stand strong. 

Salt Lake City, Utah: Thanksgiving, to me, is to be grateful for all the good blessings that came my way. Good health. Gift of family. Regardless of history, there are still many Natives in the land, and that shows how resilient we are. To honor those who went before us, let us share our culture and stories, teach the youth to learn from the past and to make our lives so our ancestors are proud of us. Example is a great educator. 

Alberta, Canada: It is an opportunity for those who do take note . . . . There will be those who roll their eyes, and others who may gain deeper appreciation, to honor (maybe even emulate) a more giving nature . . . , that of their Creator. 

Crow Agency, Montana: My Dad used to say, "We give thanks everyday, so if they want to give us a holiday to give thanks, I'll take it." 


The United American Indians of New England meet each year at Plymouth Rock on Cole's Hill for a Day of Mourning. They gather at the feet of a statue of Grand Sachem Massasoit of the Wampanoag to remember and reflect in the hope that America will never forget.

Do I celebrate Thanksgiving? No, I don’t celebrate. But I do take advantage of the holiday and get together with family and friends to share a large meal without once thinking of the Thanksgiving in 1621. I think it is the same in many Native households. It is ironic that Thanksgiving takes place during American Indian and Alaskan Native Heritage Month. An even greater irony is that more Americans today identify the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday than as National American Indian Heritage Day.  

—Dennis W. Zotigh

Dennis W. Zotigh (Kiowa/San Juan Pueblo/Santee Dakota Indian) is a member of the Kiowa Gourd Clan and San Juan Pueblo Winter Clan and a descendeant of Sitting Bear and No Retreat, both principal war chiefs of the Kiowas. Dennis works as a writer and cultural specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

The original version of this essay was published on November 23, 2011.

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We Dakota/Lakota people have a thanksgiving time, its called the Sun Dance and takes place in July of the year.

Well i grew up celebrating a day of family, food, thanks for what we have... i am glad i read this article. i never knew any truths about the past as far as the first thanksgiving. this is an enlightner of history that needs to be told...like a lot of other truths that need to be told about other tribes. history is what the non-indians want people to know. never want to put a blemish on their so called heroes of the past. Thanks and many Ah hos Dennis for writing and putting this out there for those of us that never knew...AH HO

For the past say 25 years I have tried to make anything but turkey
on thanksgiving thursday. I feel its the only thing I can personally do to show my true feelings. Yeah my kids have been as understanding as they can be and as they grow older and wiser they appreciate and respect my feelings. Its difficult at times to be different. I am a Mashpee Wampanoag and proud and thankful everyday of the year.

thanks for sharing this.

Thank you for this Reality Check...from one who trying to find her roots in such awakening.

Very good. I will share this on FB. For our family too, it's about being together with close friends and perhaps some who have no family in town. In elementary school there was the whole pilgrim thing, but once I became a teenager and learned more about history, I too realized the pilgrims were nothing to celebrate.

For Euramericans, Thanksgiving should be a Day of Atonement.

In the southeast, Harvest busk is like a thanksgiving for the community. It happens in the fall, and the community comes together to give thanks to the world for providing what was necessary to survive. It is the transition from female time of year to male time of year; from community-focus to family-oriented time of year. Thanksgiving in my family has always been a familial event. While the genocide of our people has always made this time of year a difficult burden to carry, I try to remember that those who do "re-enactments" with "indians" wearing construction paper feathers are simply ignorant of the past. Thanksgiving is not a time for everyone to celebrate a past event, it is a time to give thanks and celebrate your family in the PRESENT. Mvto!

I have shared this with on FB. I have shared the "real" story with my ESL classes. They, of course, are shocked to hear the truth. This has been a good lesson for them in critical literacy.
We will be praying today at our table for the opening of hearts and minds of all people. Blessings

I'm a Dine and do have mixed feelings in regards to integrating historical facts with a day set aside to just be, simply put, thankful. As for the historical aspects that surround the day, what holiday hasn't been tinged with some hypocricy or blatant cries of foul from both sides of the argument. I feel for my ancestors, but I am also an American. An American Indian who was abandoned by his mother and father and had no help from his tribe, but who was raised to respect all cultures and to not lean on a crutch of self pity but to rise above it. To understand that events that occured 100 to 500 years ago dont define me, but I will remember them. I respect the old ways, but they are just that. Old.. should they be forgotten? no. But we should not alienate native americans who chose to move on and integrate into mainstream America, why? what has it gotten us in the last 70 years with all the social programs in effect and doing nothing to further our plight on the rez??? NOTHING!!! I am thankful for my immediate family and I am thankful to live in a country that allows me to worship freely to choose my beliefs and to a nation that I chose to serve while in the Military. We need to stop bringing up past events, stop living in the past, live in the moment and live for tomorrow!

That is how we as Natives will prosper... LIVE!

On FB, I asked a friend of mine who works with Native Americans what they thought of Thanksgiving. I asked if they mark it the way we do Pearl Harbor Day or September 11th, because to them, Thanksiving must be the start of something terrible. A man named Yancey Red Corn responded and sent this link. I am very grateful to read the truth and understand how the Native Americans think. Thanks for posting this.

Please, keep up the fantastic work. In fact, I'm actually looking to become a writer, and your straightforward style has me very impressed. Once again, thanks for writing....

While I agree with Mr. Zotigh in his concern, the first thing is to correct in our own thinking that the Plymouth dinner in 1621 was the first time the Natives actually saved the Europeans and Natives were in turn punished. It was one hundred years before, in 1542, that the Pueblo Indians saved the life of Cabeza de Vaca and his group. There are so many other examples where the Natives saved the Europeans and then sat down as humans to give them food. And in each instance the Europeans then returned to help kill and displace those Natives. This is why we should take time at the European's thanksgiving to remind them that over and over again they give the Natives no reason to celebrate.
Ron Andrade, Los Angeles Indian Commission

Very good and informative post. My mother was Cherokee; met my dad who was a local sheriff back in '69.

I shared this on my facebook, I learnt something precious here, Thank you!

Thank you for this Reality Check. Thanksgiving should be a Day of Atonement.

Interesting and important information. It is really beneficial for us. Thanks

Thank you for sharing this informative article.Site design is good and very interesting blog. I really like it. Nice post.

Continue the wonderful good article, I just read couple of articles about this web page.

Very interesting information, in Greece we really like American Indian tradition.

As Far as I know, yes they do!

Admiring all the trouble you set into your blog. I explicit liked this post. Best regards

Great story, I'm glad I read it because I learned something from the past.

I am so glad to have found your enlightening information. I have Native American ancestors, and even as a little girl when it was required to make those little paper mache indians, I wondered even then why would the Native Americans have celebrated that day? They had everything taken from them that they loved. To this day because of having some Native American blood I don't always care to Celebrate THAT day. Heaven forbid I expressed this to others. I'd be the black sheep of the family(s).

I am working on our diversity newsletter and would like permission to print your article.
Thank you

Shelley: The museum is very happy to grant you permission to reprint Dennis's essay in your newsletter. Thank you for asking.

In retrospect to the holiday, it is very understandable that Thanksgiving is still considered a time of despair for some cultures. For many, the holiday is sure a great time for families and friends coming together and putting differences off to the side. For others, especially for some Native Americans, it can be a time of depression to one's heritage. Nonetheless, turkey and football tend to help overlook the Native American community's grief which the holiday has somewhat belittled them of their roots. Thanksgiving still carries it's pros and cons behind the roots of the holiday.

Thank you for sharing the history with us! I have also read that the first thanksgiving was actually a meeting of men only. And it was to discuss politics. I'm not sure of the facts behind that.

I am an American Indian. My brother and I were adopted as toddlers. We never knew our heritage, but that doesn't make us any less Indian. We are what we are. In some ways, I feel it is part of the tragedy. That we weren't raised in our own culture. Even though we are alive, we are somehow extinguished as Indians.

That being said, my sympathies lie completely in the middle. I can only imagine how it feels for generations of people to carry on stories that are not genuine. However, I feel instead of being angry about it as a culture, Indians should do something to change it. I am sure I am not alone in wondering, do Indians, as a group, want Americans to completely forget about the kindness the Indians showed them? Even in your story, kindness was shown by monks and others in England and New England. How can children honor Indians in elementary school? Don't forget children made pilgrim hats in school too! When we made feathers and bands in school, it was never done to demean Indians, it was intended to honor that day of peace. That's how it was in my school anyway. It may not have been done right, but the intent to do right was there. Why shouldn't Indians be included in the history of that day?

I think Indians could use Thanksgiving as both a remembrance of tragedy and a celebration of the strength of those who survived. Indians could use this as an opportunity to educate the American public about the true facts of the first thanksgiving. I believe just being angry about it will never make room for growth and peace. You mentioned yourself, that Indians gave thanks every day. These traditions could be taught to the world and carried on by everyone. I believe it is time to take these opportunities and change them into good. There is so much that the last surviving Indians can share and teach the world. If Indians could become our teachers and leaders, maybe some of the damage that was done by America's forefathers, could begin to be reversed by this generation and generations to come. I believe if we all can work together, amazing things can happen. Maybe fledgling groups can grow strong and flourish with the support of the nation.

At some point, if we want to survive to bring the truth to the next generations, we should find peace.

Excellent blog. Very interesting information. Information I didn't know about.

I am a History student in England and I am doing a Thesis on Inter-relations between the Natives in New England and the English, I would like permission to use this blog entry as part of my dissertation, of course I will reference it appropriately.

Harriet,

Yes, please feel free to cite Dennis Zotigh's post in your thesis. You may also want to read his recent reply to the same question about the 4th of July: http://blog.nmai.si.edu/main/2013/07/do-american-indians-celebrate-the-4th-of-july.html

Best regards.

Now this is the info I have been searching for my mini project. Thanks a lot!

Sonya Flores @ Dennis Zotigh, Damn brother I enjoyed your blog but with a heavy heart. When my kids were in pre- school is when I decided I needed to represent our people at this time of year more then any other. I would be damned if my kids were gonna wear paper bags like the other students. I wasn't having that.

I learned to get the story across at their age level and show them the beauty and generosity of our people. I remember growing up and my mom getn upset with me because on Thanksgiving day I would come to the dinner table in my p.js and hair unbrushed, knowing the day was not a celebration. But now that I'm a mother of 3 and a grandmother of 1, I understand as Native people we give thanks to the Creator everyday.

On Thanksgiving Day Im just grateful our people are still here and still stand strong. Thank you so much for your blog, I look forward to many more! Aho!

We spend the day with family are thankful for our family but give thanks everyday to our Creator. As a pre school teacher I never did the pilgrim thanksgiving lesson. I did catch a little backlash but in my class we did art projects about turkeys- My children were kept at home so as not to participate in thanksgiving plays.

I totally appreciate you sharing this. Most people honestly do not realize why American Indian's find it difficult to "celebrate" this day. Thankful for the Whites killing off the Native people? What?? It is hard to be thankful for SOME things at this time. I AM thankful that the American Indian has pursued thru the years...and I am part American Indian. Wa~do...

November 21, 2013

Meet Native America: Amber C. Toppah, Chairman of the Kiowa Business Committee, Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native peoples today. —Dennis Zotigh, NMAI 

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

Amber C. Toppah, Kiowa Business Committee chairman, Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma.

Can you give us your Native name, its English translation and/or nickname?

My Kiowa name is Ay-Keen-Geh-Ah-Lay, meaning Charging after the Enemy. It was given to me by my grandfather Frank Kaubin and grandmother Georgia Duppoint in 1994. I am a great-great-great granddaughter of Chief Satanta (White Bear), and Ay-Keen-Geh-Ah-Lay was the name of his eldest daughter.

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?  

_0331281432
Amber C. Toppah, chairman of the Kiowa Business Committee, Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma.

The duties of the chairman of the Kiowa Business Committee are to preside over all business meetings of the committee and the Kiowa Indian Council, our governing body. The chairman has general supervision over the affairs of the business committee, involving federal government programs, tribal enterprises, state entities, and prospective business opportunities. The chairman also serves the tribe as an ambassador for business and public relations.

I have made my goal as chairman to bring businesses and opportunities to the table, possible projects for the Kiowa Tribe, but also for neighboring tribes
—in every way possible helping Indian Country achieve success.

How did your life experience prepare you to help lead your nation?

I never knew as I was growing up, being raised by my grandma and grandpa, that I was being groomed to have a role in leadership in the government sector. My grandma Rita Quoetone Gaddy—a full-blooded, Kiowa woman, fluent in our language—was also my high school government teacher, and she involved me in Voice of Democracy, in the Washington, D.C., Close Up Program, and in paging for the Oklahoma House of Representatives. She also occasionally quizzed me at the dinner table to recite the Preamble to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or the Gettysburg Address. I even agreed to eat liver for dinner (my least favorite food) in a deal so that me World History class wouldn’t have homework. She was really tough on me, and I didn’t get special privileges as everyone thought.

She taught me the importance of history and of being a patriotic American. She also taught me my heritage as a proud Kiowa woman to walk in two worlds and be successful in both. When I graduated from high school, I thought I knew where I was going. I said I would never go back to Meers, Oklahoma, never work for a tribe, and never be in politics. Today I live in Meers, I’ve worked for the Kiowa Casino, and I am in tribal politics. I’ve learned never to say never.

I've also learned that I tend to gravitate to the most challenging areas and beyond my comfort zone in my career. Tell me I can’t accomplish something and I will try to prove you wrong—perfect for a young female leader in today’s society.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

Each member of my immediate family has been a mentor, nuturing spiritual roots; teaching me responsibility, respect, honesty, perseverance, and courage; giving me life skills and the independence to succeed whatever my goal may be. My list of mentors includes strong Native women who are mothers, former members of the military, historians, educators, businesswomen. They stand out in that each of them has paved the way for other women, including myself, to break the mold of what is the norm and also to be humble enough to know that it’s an honor.

Where is the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma located?

Kiowa tribal headquarters are located in Carnegie, Oklahoma. The majority of our tribal enrollment is in Oklahoma, but we are also spread throughout the United States and even internationally. Our land base is in the southwest region of Oklahoma—the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache Lands and family-allotted land.

Where was your nation originally from?

The Kiowas were originally from the Yellowstone National Park area. Our history says that the tribe broke in two, with some members remaining there and others traveling south to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. Our sister tribe is the Crow Tribe of Montana.

Is there a functional, traditional entity of Kiowa leadership in addition to your modern government system?

No, we have kept government separated from our traditional ways, societies, organizations, and religious practices. We remember where we come from with each group; some practice and participate in both government and traditional life, but we keep it separate.

What is a significant point in history from your nation that you would like to share?

March 13, 1970—the approval of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma Constitution and the Bylaws of the Kiowa Indian Tribe. The authors of our constitution had a magnificent insight into the business to be conducted by the governing body—the Kiowa Indian Council—and the business committee, and the prospective powers of each. Now in 2013 we can use this guidebook to look back and see where those intelligent leaders have brought us to today and where we can grow for the future of Kiowa children and in the best interest of the tribe. We have to come together as a tribe, as Native people, and as a sovereign nation to work for the progress and favor of our people.

Approximately how many members are in your nation? 

The Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma has close to 12,500 members.

What are the criteria to become a member?

A person must complete the application of enrollment regardless of their residence and must possess at least one-fourth degree—one quarter—Kiowa Indian blood.

Is your language still spoken on your homelands? If so, what percentage of your people would you estimate are fluent speakers?

Yes, the Kiowa language is spoken in several families and homes. Like any tribe, we know the importance of our language. We have some independent language programs in the state, and some schools have even incorporated Kiowa into their language programs. These programs share the challenge that the Kiowa language is a difficult dialect, and you see several different teaching methods—and sometimes different spellings—in working with Kiowa language students. Language is of high importance to preserving and retaining any culture, so we must teach our children at a younger age through programs within our communities.

What economic enterprises does your nation own?

We have a few tribal enterprises. Our main source of revenue is our oil and gas. We also have the Kiowa Casino in Devol and the Kiowa Casino Verden, and we recently purchased a Kiowa Tribe funeral home, which is being renovated to be in full function in the near future. We are always looking to generate new business revenues for the tribe, to help supplement some of our programs and also give service to our tribal members.

What annual events does your nation sponsor?

Our annual events consist of our tribal programs and activities, sometimes in conjunction with sponsors. These include health fairs, holiday events, hand games, and our Fourth of July celebrations with the Kiowa Gourd Clan, Kiowa Tia-Piah Society, and Oklahoma Tia-Piah. The yearly event we are proudest of is our annual Kiowa Black Leggings Warrior (Ton-Kon-Gah) Ceremony, held at the Indian City USA Cultural Center in Anadarko, Oklahoma. Generations ago and still today we honor our veterans and the warriors coming home from war.

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

The Kiowa Tribe has several attractions for visitors near our headquarters and we share attractions locally with tribes neighboring the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache Lands. The seven tribes of the southern plains of Oklahoma share a very rich culture that attracts everyone. We also have Fort Sill nearby and the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, where wildlife originally found throughout this area and Mountain Scott are attractions. 

How is your government set up?

The top governing body of the Kiowa Tribe is the Kiowa Indian Council, composed of all members of the tribe eighteen years of age or older. The elected Kiowa Business Committee is an eight-member board serving two year terms. There are subordinate boards that work in conjunction with the council and the business committee according to the tribe's constitution, ordinances, and charters.

How often are elected leaders chosen?

The term of office for the Kiowa Business Committee is two years. We conduct our issue and budget elections in November and our candidate elections in June.

How often does the tribal business committee meet?

The Kiowa Business Committee meets on a monthly basis; sometimes there are also special meetings. The Kiowa Indian Council meets in April for a general session and in October to submit issues to go on the ballot in November. 

20130208_145002 a
Chairman Toppah (center) with fellow officials of the United Indian Nations of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. 

How does the Kiowa Tribe deal with the United States as a sovereign nation?

The Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma is one of 39 federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma, making us extremely unique as a state. Recently leaders have come together to establish the United Indian Nations of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas to promote unity, better community relations, and stronger communications with each other, and to pursue the advocacy of laws and policies to benefit Indian nations and Indigenous peoples.

The Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma is also a member of the National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Gaming Association, and several other strong organizations to support Kiowa tribal members' voices being heard on policy and other initiatives on a local, state, and national level. Through hard work and dedication, these government-to-government relations have put Natives on the public sector's agenda to contribute to the discussion of issues and the creation and carrying out of executive orders.

What message would you like to share with the youth of your nation?

To the youth, you are the future. Please remember that success comes from hard work, independence, courage, and a positive attitude. So have goals, think big, believe in yourself, and have a great work ethic.

Be mindful of your spirit, your body, your mental health, your sense of humor, and most importantly your education. No one can take those away from you.

Kiowa youth, we are a proud tribe. Our people before us cleared the path. But they also wanted us to make our own paths along the way, because we are a strong people with new ideas, a sense of purpose, and a progressive style. So pursue your dreams, and do great things.

Ah-ho—thank you.

Ah-ho. 


Photographs courtesy of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. Used with permission. 

To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below. 
Meet-native-america
From left to right: Representative Ponka-We Victors (Tohono O’odham/Southern Ponca) taking the oath of office in the Kansas House of Representatives; photo courtesy of Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache) at the Sundance Film Festival; photo courtesy of WireImage. Sergeant Debra Mooney (Choctaw) at the powwow in Al Taqaddum Air Force Base, Iraq, 2004; photo courtesy of Sgt. Debra Mooney. Councilman Jonathan Perry (Wampanoag) in traditional clothing; photo courtesy of Jonathan Perry. Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee) at Blackhorse et al. v. Pro Football, Inc., press conference, U.S. Patent and Trade Office, February 7, 2013; photo courtesy of Mary Phillips. All images used with permission. 

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November 14, 2013

Meet Native America: E. Keith Colston, Administrative Director for the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native peoples today. —Dennis Zotigh, NMAI 

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.
 

E. Keith Colston, administrative director for the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs.

Can you give us your Native name, its English translation and/or a nickname? 

Ahsolte, given by Marty Richardson in the Tutelo language. It means blue. My family is Tuscarora and Lumbee. 

E Keith Colston 1
E. Keith Colston (Tuscarora/Lumbee), administrative director for the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs (MCIA). Photo courtesy of the MCIA.

What responsibilities do you have to the tribes of Maryland? 

To direct, administer, and supervise the commission's program and activities; to assist the governor in an administrative manner between the Native communities and state government.

How is the commission set up?

The Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs (MCIA) was created by the Maryland General Assembly in 1976 to represent and serve the state's American Indian community. As the official statewide agency for American Indians, the commission initiates and supports a wide range of activities that promote the welfare of Maryland's Indian people and further the understanding of American Indian history and culture. The commission also operates for the state to provide both a forum for the concerns of Maryland's American Indian communities and a vital liaison between these communities and the state and federal governments.

How often are leaders chosen?

Commissioners are appointed by the governor to serve for three-year terms. Each indigenous community governs itself.

How often do the commissioners meet? 

Commission meetings are public and take place six times a year. 

How does the commission relate to the rest of the Maryland state government?

In 2008 we were moved from the Department of Human Resources (DHR) to the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives (GOCI). It was an elevation for the MCIA.

What attractions are available for visitors on Maryland Native lands? 

As a “state of firsts,” Maryland is full of history. If you consider the Chesapeake Bay Region and John Smith coming into contact with various tribal communities long ago, through to the recognition of the Piscataway people last year, you see that there is much to be gained from learning about the history and experience of Maryland's Native people.

What annual events does the commission sponsor?

We organize the American Indian Heritage Month Kickoff in Maryland for the first of November and the celebration of American Indian Heritage Day the fourth Friday of each November; in 2008 the Maryland House of Delegates voted to honor American Indian Heritage Day as a state holiday. We also host cultural competency training and lectures throughout the year. We assist communities with health, education, and economic development, as well as legislative issues and concerns, state policy, and procedure.

How did your life experience prepare you to lead?

I think the important values I've learned include to be culturally aware and respectful of all tribes, and the idea that Native Americans should not be complacent. My parents taught me to be proud, that it is wise to pick my battles, and that communication and education are keys to success.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

I have had mentors in various aspects of society. My father and mother, Manuel and Nellie, and all the parents when I was growing up; Barry Richardson, who taught me about business; Georgeline Brushbreaker Sparks, who is a second mother to me, for her example of spirituality; and Talmadge Branch and Greg Richardson, for their commitment to Indian affairs.

Are you a descendant of a historical leader? 

No.

Where is your home community located? Where are your people originally from?

I grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina. My people were from Bertie County, North Carolina, and settled in Cumberland County.

E Keith Colston b
E. Keith Colston in ceremonial attire. Photo courtesy of the MCIA.

What is a significant point in history from your people that you would like to share?

My family is part of the Tuscarora band that remained in North Carolina during the 18th century, rather than moving north and joining the Iroquois Confederacy. The Lumbee are the largest tribe in North Carolina.

Approximately how many members are in your home community?

Here in Baltimore the Lumbee number about 1500 to 2000.

What are the criteria to become a member of your tribe?

Knowing tribal history and having one parent who is a member of the tribe.

Is your language still spoken on your homelands? If so, what percentage of your people would you estimate are fluent speakers? 

Yes, Tuscarora—skarureis still spoken. I'm not sure of the percentage, but very few people speak fluently.

What annual events do your tribes sponsor?

Two in particular are the Tuscarora Nation of NC Powwow in Maxton and the Lumbee Spring Powwow.

What message would you like to share with Native youth?  

Know who you are, so that no one can tell you what you should be. Know your history and keep your customs alive. Support each other, for there are few of us. Be great beyond measure.

Thank you.


To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below. 
Meet-native-america

From left to right: Representative Ponka-We Victors (Tohono O’odham/Southern Ponca) taking the oath of office in the Kansas House of Representatives; photo courtesy of Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache) at the Sundance Film Festival; photo courtesy of WireImage. Sergeant Debra Mooney (Choctaw) at the powwow in Al Taqaddum Air Force Base, Iraq, 2004; photo courtesy of Sgt. Debra Mooney. Councilman Jonathan Perry (Wampanoag) in traditional clothing; photo courtesy of Jonathan Perry. Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee) at Blackhorse et al. v. Pro Football, Inc., press conference, U.S. Patent and Trade Office, February 7, 2013; photo courtesy of Mary Phillips. All images used with permission. 

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November 08, 2013

Exploring the Education Learning Center at the Museum in New York

By Cody Harjo

The National Museum of the American Indian in New York presents weekly family-friendly programs and annual events such as the Children’s Day Festival in May and the Day of the Dead Celebration in October. Yet, we understand the timing of your visit might not coincide with scheduled programs. There are still plenty of opportunities for visitors with children to enjoy unique, self-guided learning experiences.  

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Object cases in the Education Learning Center at the National Museum of the American Indian George Gustav Heye Center in New York.

The Education Learning Center, commonly referred to as the Tipi Room, is located on the first floor of the National Museum of the American Indian’s George Gustav Heye Center in lower Manhattan. Indeed there is a tipi in the room, along with animal hides, and objects for study in the glass cases. It is a hands-on learning environment that recreates elements of 19th-century American Indian material culture from the Plains and Plateau regions.

EdBlogTipi“Is this real,” is one the questions we hear most often. The answer is, “Yes! Everything in the room is real.” Many times when people ask, “Is this real?” they are really wondering if an object is a historical item. Regarding the tipi, a more accurate response is, “Yes, it is a modern tipi with a canvas cover. The historical tipi covers were made from buffalo hides.” The tipi liner is also made of canvas and painted by award-winning ledger artist Tom Haukaas (Lakota). The tipi is an excellent example of cultures’ adapting modern materials for the continuation of traditional practices. All items are recent acquisitions, proof that many people still practice their traditional arts!

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EdBlog Deer Hide
Above, from top to bottom: Hands-on objects in the Education Learning Center at the museum in New York include a modern tipi with tipi liner painted by Tom Haukaas (Lakota); buffalo hide; deer hide in rawhide form.

The Education Learning Center also contains a buffalo hide and a stretched deer hide in rawhide form. Both hides are part of the museum’s handling collection. Feel free to touch them! A looped video explains the hide tanning process.

After you watch the video, compare and contrast the thickness of the buffalo hide to that of the deer hide. Buffalo hides are thicker and harder to cut, and thus were not typically used to make clothing. Hides such as deer and elk are more suitable for clothing. Uses for buffalo hides include ornamental robes, bedding, and tipi covers. As demonstrated in the video, rawhide is the form in which the hide exists before it is softened. Rawhide is used to produce many items, such as drums and parfleches.

The Tipi Room is also an excellent place to introduce the concept of culture associated with regions, as tipis are very specific to certain Great Plains cultures, such as the Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Sioux. The idea of organizing the study of cultures by region is illustrated by the permanent exhibition Infinity of Nations, located off the Rotunda on the second floor. Continue to this gallery to study historical objects made from the two types of hides examined in the Education Learning Center.

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Ed BlogComanchemocsAbove: Lakota box-and-border robe. Probably South Dakota, ca. 1865. Deer hide, glass beads; National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (11/1739). Right: Comanche leggings & moccasins. Oklahoma, ca. 1890. Deer hide, ochre, glass beads, horsehair, feathers, silk, beads, metal cones, pigment. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (2/1506 & 2/1833). On view at the museum in New York in the permanent exhibition Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian.

These are just two examples of museum objects made from buffalo and deer hide. Study the gallery labels to discover the many uses of buffalo, deer, and other types of hides. It is amazing to see how craftsmanship and artistry can transform hide into objects of beauty and function.

Depending on which museum entrance you use, you might immediately find the Tipi Room. It is easily visible from first-floor entrance. The monumental staircase and portico lead to the second-floor entrance. From there you can  proceed to the first floor via elevator or stairs. Enjoy your visit! 

All photos by Cody Harjo, NMAI.

Cody Harjo (Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, Otoe, and Creek) served as a cultural interpreter at the National Museum of the American in New York from 2008 to 2013. She is a fall 2013 graduate of the New School’s M.A. program in Media Studies.

 

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I'm yet to visit this museum but definitely intend to do so.

I have friends who have - they say its a fantastic experience for kids.

Thanks for all this info friend, it's very helpful for us

Hi, Cody Harjo. Nice Blog!