My 1979 Lakota Thanksgiving
My name is Preston Moser, a Wasicu originally from St. Louis. In the 1970's and 80's I lived on the Pine Ridge (and Rosebud) Reservations with Grandpa and Grandma Fools Crow, with Dawson No Horse, Sr. and with Pete Swift Bird. Dawson gave me the name Sunka Pesto - Sharpdog and my Lakota relatives and Loved Ones all call me Pesto.
In 1979 around Thanksgiving time I was living in a small log cabin by myself, way out on Pete Swift Bird's property. During the work week, I was working with some young high school graduates in the Native American Telecommunications Project in Pine Ridge. I didn't have any plans for Thanksgiving. I was going to eat just like it was any other Thursday, so I was going to have a baloney sandwich for dinner, and I thought to myself that Thanksgiving was a White holiday for which my Lakota relatives had little to be thankful, considering how the Wasicus have always treated the Lakota.
One of the young Lakota Telecommunications Project workers asked me what I was doing for Thanksgiving and I told him proudly that I was going to eat a baloney sandwich. He said that his Grandma told him that, if I wasn't invited somewhere else, he was to invite me to come have Thanksgiving dinner with his family. I gratefully accepted and agreed to come to his family's small house for a Thanksgiving dinner. I knew that to refuse that invitation would have been far worse than rude. They had a Turkey, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce, Pumpkin Pie and lots of other delicious casseroles and treats. There was plenty for everyone, and they made sure that I didn't skimp and was well fed. I have NEVER EVER been so thankful at Thanksgiving before or since that wonderful Thanksgiving. I fought back tears the entire time I was with those wonderful, beloved relatives, and I find myself wiping away tears remembering and typing this.
Of course, I despise the phony mythology about friendly European settlers giving thanks alongside their Native American neighbors, because I know the awful truth of how those settlers criminally mistreated, murdered and stole from those Native neighbors who had tried to help them when they were in desperate need. And yet, thinking back on the Thanksgiving of 1979, it is impossible for me to not feel intense and lifelong gratitude for my beloved Lakota relatives who showed me such amazing love, compassion, acceptance and inclusion. For that reason, and because truly giving thanks to our Creator IS ALWAYS a good idea, I still celebrate Thanksgiving, remembering all of my amazing Loved Ones.
Pesto - Preston Moser
I wrote this in response to a Facebook post that suggested that Thanksgiving should be treated the same as Columbus Day by Native Peoples, and then thought to post it to Indian Country Today. Lila Pila Miya!