Thanksgiving

Ok, it was yesterday so my timing of this post is a little off. I have been seriously low on energy lately so writing posts has been difficult for me to do.

Anyway. A lot of people expect that I hate Thanksgiving, because I’m American Indian, have a degree in First Nations Studies, and am very vocal about how awful it is that the US has Columbus Day and we shouldn’t celebrate a dude who killed, enslaved, and raped a bunch of indigenous North Americans. I mean, you know, just saying.

While I loathe Columbus Day and think it should be renamed into Indigenous Peoples’ Day or Bartolomé Day or something else, anything other than honoring the father of the transatlantic slave trade, I don’t actually hate Thanksgiving, for all the parallels drawn between the two.* That’s because my experience of it is pretty different from the way the Thanksgiving experience is portrayed in a lot of western media.

That school play thing where half the kids dress up as Pilgrims and the rest are Indians and there’s a giant turkey and it’s all very sappy and simple and glosses over the intricacies of the actual history, not to mention talking about “the Indians” as if we up and went away to the Undying Lands all Tolkein Elvish-style? Yeah, never had that. (The play specifically, I mean. I’ve experienced plenty of talk about Indians being “gone” or “lost to history” and will likely continue to experience that on a regular basis.)

The pat story about how the Pilgrims and the Indians survived the winter through the Power of Sharing? Was never really a Thing. I wasn’t even fully cognizant of that being part of the story until I was in my preteens. At which point, well, that seemed ridiculous.

Thanksgiving was always presented to me as more of a harvest celebration, where we’re grateful for the fact that we have food and shelter throughout the cold nights, and as a reminder that not everyone is as lucky. I don’t know if that’s just the way I was raised or if it’s more common in Canada to see Thanksgiving this way, but it’s how it was for me.

Also, once Mom and I moved to Hawai’i and began celebrating the US version of the holiday, it had the benefit of being a holiday that I was sure to have with her instead of on access with my father. (There was one Thanksgiving I spent with my father, when I got a week off school to come back to Canada in October, and brought my best friend. She’s forgiven me for that experience, thankfully.)

Finally, I fucking love turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie.

So while Thanksgiving might have dubious origins, and while it may contain enough threads of colonialism or just, well, being a family holiday to taint it for many people, for me it’s a celebration of thanks, harvest, togetherness, and PUMPKIN.

PUMPKIN SPICE FOR THE PUMPKIN GOD.

*cough* Right. Where was I?

Thanksgiving! Yes! So we spent Monday evening at Mr. Katje’s sister’s place. I made a pumpkin pie and it was a huge success. It was only my second pumpkin pie; the first one didn’t have enough pumpkin spice in it and the pumpkin god was displeased. Also it was bland. But I have pictures of the first one and not the second one, so here you go:

Making my first pumpkin pie!
MIXIN IN THE MIXER
Annd in the oven.
OVENIN’ IN THE OVEN
Smells delicious!
READY TO BE DEVOURED. PUMPKIN SPICE FOR THE PUMPKIN GOD.

Looks delicious, doesn’t it? Well, its brother was.

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you had a wonderful one, full of all your favourite holiday foods and people.

-Katje, who is thankful for pumpkin

*Probably important to note here: I adored seeing 1492: Conquest of Paradise in theatres and I listen to the soundtrack to this day (in fact I’m listening to it now; it’s VANGELIS HE’S AMAZING). I visited Dominican Republic for the quincentennial celebration of the “discovery” by Columbus and there were huge parties. While now I acknowledge that Columbus was an ass and isn’t someone we should celebrate, that doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t know it then (I was 5 or 6 after all) and I still had an amazing time. And while I haven’t seen it in ages, I’m pretty sure I’d still enjoy the movie 1492: Conquest of Paradise even if Columbus is the protagonist. And I wouldn’t feel guilty, nor would I try to make anyone else feel guilty for enjoying that film or the music.

Just, you know, it’s possible to hold opposing thoughts in your brain at the same time without being devoured whole by them.

Where did January go?

Sometimes I feel like aliens have abducted me, because I keep losing time. It feels like New Year’s Day was just yesterday, and yet it’s now February 1st.

The big thing for me in January was my graduation from university. The Fellowship of the Baccalaureate is completed! Sean Bean has died, and I am on my way to Mordor my [first] Master’s. (Working title for that part of the saga: The Two Theses.)

Graduation day was a whirlwind and it basically murdered my energy levels. I’m pretty sure I borrowed against 2 weeks’ worth of spoons to complete that day. It was worth it; I’m just sleeping a hell of a lot right now.

Early Thursday morning Mr. Katje and I got up and went to catch the 7:45 ferry to Nanaimo. (Mr. Katje got the day off work so he could come to my graduation, and he didn’t guffaw once during the long speeches — I’m so proud of him!) We had breakfast on the ferry, and once we landed in Nanaimo we had to run around doing errands for a few hours: pick up regalia, drop off tickets in various places, drop off a book for a reader. Before we knew it, it was time for me to get ready with my fellow graduates.

I went to the Coast Bastion and met the other grads in the ballroom assigned to us. Several of my friends were graduating on Thursday, too, so I got to high five and hug them and take silly selfies together.

My fellow First Nations Studies grads and I had a brief prayer of thanks to the Creator before we started the procession, which was great — really helped me calm my panic and nerves.

I realized, before we left, that I hadn’t given Mr. Katje my camera — I ran upstairs to see if he was still in the lobby, but he wasn’t, so I held onto the thing and hoped I’d get a chance to get it to him before I got on stage. Luck held out — he and my mom were sitting right next to where we walked onstage. I bent down and gave him the camera without missing a beat.

Then came the sitting on stage through all the numerous speeches that were given. Honestly, this part could have been cut way down. There was one speech that was entertaining; during the rest I had to fight not to fall asleep. Then I had to fight hunger and trying to eat the hats off my fellow graduates. I hadn’t had any food since 8 that morning, and it was 3:30 at this point. My stomach was tying itself in knots.

Finally, after all the speeches, they asked us to read our oath — the acceptance of our degrees. We did, clumsily and definitely not as one, and then we got to move our tassels from the right hand side to the left. Officially graduated!

And then we got to walk the stage to our names being called out. The part we’ve all been waiting for, through the interminable speechifying.

Even though my name change isn’t complete, the school still let me graduate with my real name on the parchment and read out by the Dean. I didn’t think he’d have trouble with one of my middle names — Ayla — so I just told him how to pronounce the ones that usually give people trouble (my first name, especially). Ah well, 4 out of 5 done correct is really good! (And they’re all spelled correctly on the degree, so I’m happy.)

I walked across the stage without my cane, which my back has still not forgiven me for, but it was worth it. It was important to my state of mind that I walk across unassisted. As I walked, I held my hands up in a gesture of thanks used in First Nations Studies classes – hy’chu’qa si:em, to everyone in the audience, to everyone who supported me.

In the middle of the stage I shook hands with Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada and our school chancellor, and Ralph Nilson, our school president. I then posed for a picture with them before continuing on across the stage, where our registrar Fred Jacklin shook my hand and gave me my degree.

After that I sat down again, and eventually we finished and proceeded out of the theatre again, to the lobby where our friends and family waited to congratulate us. I hugged folks, took pictures, accepted wonderful gifts from friends, and then ripped off my regalia, screaming about it being a demon frock of polyestered death.

Seriously, worst part of graduation: the regalia. It is hot as balls sitting in that thing under stage lights for 2 hours. Also, so-called “XL” size? HA.

Anyway. After all that, we returned the regalia and headed off for dinner, which was fun but had to be quick because Mr. Katje and I had to catch the 8:15 ferry home if we wanted to get our car back from the parking lot before they closed.

We were so exhausted we fell asleep in our chairs on the ferry. When we got home we staggered into bed and fell asleep within minutes.

I woke up early the next day but ended up sleeping some more that afternoon, getting back to my apartment around 12:30am. I went to sleep at 3am, again, and got up at quarter to 9. It’s now 4pm and I’m thinking about napping.

So you can see — very tiring day, very few spoons.

Other exciting things that happened in January!

Which means I need to get back to packing and cleaning.

Or napping. Napping sounds good, too.

 

Happy Summer Solstice!

Today is the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, though you wouldn’t know it to look outside my window. (Traditional Vancouver June: wet, cloudy, gray.)

For me, this day is not only the longest day and a day sacred to Manannan mac Lir (whose symbols include mist and rain, so I’m not really complaining about the weather). It is also a day that really signifies to me that school is over and done with.

At least, my first degree.

Yes, I’m done my first degree. My last class was on Monday and our grades should be in this weekend. Even though class was done on Monday, things didn’t really feel done until today. Today is the end of the semester. My very last semester at VIU.

This isn’t the end of my schooling overall, just the end of the first step. I’ve worked for 10 years to get my degree, and come January I’ll finally be able to walk the stage in my long black robes and receive it from some dude in a funny hat. Maybe someday I will get my own funny hat.

I was going to blog my journey through my last class at VIU. Being stuck with a ferry commute to school would give me plenty of opportunity to type up blog posts on my tablet and then upload them when I got home.

Unfortunately, this class involved working with kids in the local school system, which meant there were a lot of confidentiality issues of which I had to be mindful. I couldn’t just write anything in a blog post about class; I would have to be circumspect.

I was so exhausted after class I didn’t have the energy to even think about what I could or couldn’t say, so in the end I decided to say nothing at all. It was safest that way.

"I Make a Difference"
“I Make a Difference”

However, now that it’s over and I’ve had some sleep, I can tell you that the kids were awesome and teaching them about First Nations culture was pretty cool, even if I wasn’t so stoked about it to begin with. When it was over, the kids gave us bracelets (pictured above) that say “I MAKE A DIFFERENCE.” I wear it on my arm where I can read it easily.

Cue “D’aaaaawwwwww”.

Working with kids isn’t my first choice of profession, but this class taught me some things — about teaching and about myself. It’s also given me some ideas on how I can work towards doing more public speaking and more workshops in areas that matter to me. So all in all, I’m glad my last class was worth the time and effort it took me to ferry back and forth between Vancouver and Nanaimo for 7 weeks.

Not that I’d ever want to do that again.

I’m off for the weekend now. Have a great Summer Solstice (or Winter Solstice if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere), and I’ll see you next week.

-Kat

Friday Reads: An Anthology of Native LGBT Myths

Unfortunately I can’t find a bigger picture of the cover.

Today I’ll be reading some more of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Myths from the Arapaho to the Zuni: An Anthology, edited by Jim Elledge. I’ve been reading this book for class — namely, so I could find a myth to turn into a skit that would be performed in order to teach our classmates about trans* issues from a Native perspective (my class is a 400-level First Nations Studies course in community development). I’ve found that myth now, and so the other thing I’ll be doing today is writing the skit and putting together a props list.

However, I’m still reading the book. Some of the myths are really interesting, some are funny, some are WTF — like most myths from most cultures. The one thing they all have in common, however, is they show that the origins of American and Canadian literature were most definitely not heteronormative and cissexist — knowledge of queer and trans identities has existed in North America as long as Native cultures have. This book is not even a complete anthology — it is a selection of some of the myths, notably ones where Two-Spirit characters are more prominent then those where they have more secondary or tertiary roles.

In fact, in many of the myths, Two-Spirit characters were responsible for much of why the world is the way it is. They create cultural traditions, they decide how the animals will be, they create the earth itself…. They were not people of little importance; they were vital parts of community and cosmology.

Interesting how easily that narrative can get turned around. From the original literature of this continent acknowledging and even featuring prominently trans and queer individuals to us fighting for our right to live in peace, let alone have the same basic rights as cis and het people do.

Another example of how colonialism is still alive and well in these countries. We’ve come a long way, but it’s not even a fraction of an inch of the distance we still need to travel. Let’s not forget that.