Tag Archives: Taos Pueblo

Many Thanks

Corn Dance, Taos Pueblo, circa 1920s

Though the majority of the U.S. population celebrates an official day of gratitude called Thanksgiving, Native Americans have always had a deep tradition of routinely giving thanks. They have particularly given attention and gratitude to the animals and plants which gave their lives to provide sustenance or medicine.

 

Planting ceremonies were also important, as were dances and feasts to celebrate good crops. Among others, the Creek, Cherokee, Seminole, Yuchi, and Iroquois tribes celebrated the Green Corn Festival, which marked the beginning of the first corn harvest. It was a time to thank Mother Earth and all living things for providing food  and other usable items that made life good. The Maple Syrup Ceremony (late spring), Strawberry Ceremony (early summer), Bean Dance and Buffalo Dance (winter), are only a few of the times that Native Americans set aside to acknowledge their dependence upon the bounty of the earth.

Buffalo Dance at Hano, courtesy www.firstpeoples.us

Buffalo Dance at Hano, courtesy www.firstpeoples.us

Qahatika Women Resting in Harvest Field, courtesy Library of Congress

Qahatika Women Resting in Harvest Field, courtesy Library of Congress

The Iroquois particularly formalized times of thanksgiving, which would include a special Thanksgiving Address. A speaker was chosen to give thanks on behalf of all the people. The thanksgiving prayer then offered gratitude to the Creator for the earth and the living things upon it. The prayer could be quite long, encompassing specific things the speaker wanted to call special attention to, like birds, rivers, medicinal grasses and herbs, wind, rain, sunshine, the moon and stars, and so on. Thanksgiving festivals provided opportunities to feast, express gratitude, and enjoy good things, and also provided times of cleansing, healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedintumblr

Other Forms of Resistance

Students in American Clothing at Carlisle, 1879

Students in American Clothing at Carlisle, 1879

Parents who did not want to send their children to boarding school could not always fight back, but many parents tried to instill the traditional ways and values of their culture into their children despite the federal government. When children returned to their reservations, they could still attend dances and ceremonies, speak their native language (if they still remembered it), wear traditional clothing, hear the old stories, etc. Some, of course, rejected the old ways, but many were willing to incorporate them into the new knowledge and way of life they had seen off-reservation.

Elders in some tribes did all that they could to keep tradition intact. Around the turn of the twentieth century, the Taos Pueblo required men to wear their hair in braids and wear traditional clothing. If they wore “American” pants, they had to cut the seat out and wear a blanket around the middle; this outfit resembled deerskin leggings and the breech clout. Purchased shoes had to have the heels cut off to resemble moccasins.

Children who refused to grow their hair long once they returned from school or who wore “American” clothes, could be fined one to five dollars. If they refused to participate in dances they were given the alternative of a ten-dollar fine or a dollar-a-stroke whipping in the plaza.*

*These details are taken from Masked Gods: Navaho and Pueblo Ceremonialism by Frank Waters.

Colville Indian Family on Reservation, circa 1900 - 1910, courtesy Library of Congress

Colville Indian Family on Reservation, circa 1900 – 1910, courtesy Library of Congress

Taos Pueblo, circa 1900 - 1910

Taos Pueblo, circa 1900 – 1910

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedintumblr