Native American Heritage Day

Native American Heritage Day (better known as Black Friday) is a not-so-highly publicized civil holiday observed on the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. That’s a shame considering the role of the Wampanoag people in the first Thanksgiving. They “shared their land, food, and knowledge of the environment with the English. Without help from the Wampanoag, the English would not have had the successful harvest that led to the First Thanksgiving. However, cooperation was short lived, as the English continued to attack and encroach upon Wampanoag lands in spite of their agreements” (Native Perspectives on Thanksgiving). How many of us even recognize the Wampanoag name?

Each year, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma sends me a Christmas tree ornament and a story from my ancestors. In recognition of the Native American role in Thanksgiving, in sadness of subsequent forced removal of natives from tribal lands, in memory of my proud Choctaw Granny who faced systemic injustice in her own life, as a reminder of the Choctaw blood that flows through my veins and blessings large and small, I share with you:

“The Gift of Corn”

“Long ago, two Choctaw men were camping along the Alabama River when they heard a beautiful but sad sound. They followed the sound until they came upon Ohoyo Osh Chishba, Unknown Woman, standing on an earthen mound. The men asked how they could help her, and she answered, ‘I’m hungry.’ The men gave her all their food, but the lady ate only a little and thanked them with a promise.

“‘Tell no one you saw me. I will ask the Great Spirit to give you a gift. Return here at the new moon,’ she said. The Choctaw men went home and said nothing.

“At the new moon, they returned to the river as instructed, but Ohoyo Osh Chishba was not there. In the place where they had seen her, though, stood a tall green plant. That plant is corn, and it is a great gift, indeed!”

Tanchi is the Choctaw word for corn.

34 thoughts on “Native American Heritage Day

  1. Thank you for highlighting Native American Heritage Day and your personal connection to its meaning and relevance, Crystal. Talk about what turned out to be very poor timing due to the arrival of the most bizarre of days, Black Friday. Give thanks one day and then head out to spend, spend, spend the next. Sigh.

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      1. It’s such an important designation, so good for George W. And the date is truly appropriate considering Native American Peoples’ role in Thanksgiving. It is such a shame that unbridled consumerism took over “ownership” of this day.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It just goes to show you that big business will commercialize any important date without consideration for the dates they choose. While the shopping is necessary, people should not shop for shopping’s sake. Thanks for sharing your story Crystal. Allan

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  3. Cool! I agree, that’s a much better name for this day. We have so much to be Thankful for all the gifts of the Native people to the world. Corn is a great example. So happy you know and celebrate your Choctaw heritage. Happy Native American Heritage Day, Crystal!

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  4. Thank you Crystal for your post today. I enjoyed reading about your heritage and the first Thanksgiving. I know my wife who is Metis will like reading it also. I like your gratitude journal photo. Best wishes – David ♥

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  5. Thanks for the information, Crystal! This was news to me, as I never had heard this origin story before.

    Are you familiar with the Iroquois “Three Sisters” planting method? Apparently, the nation discovered long ago that growing corn, squash and beans together maximized the soil’s nutrients. Better still, each plant benefitted the other two, the squash’s dense mat choking out weeds, the corn’s towering structure giving the beans something to climb, etc., etc. How clever!

    As I sample international cuisines, I’m struck by how rich were Native America’s culinary contributions to the rest of the world. Not just corn, but tomatoes, chocolate (specifically, cacao), potatoes, pumpkins, pineapples and peppers, all got their start in the Americas.

    In this and in other areas, where would the rest of us be without Native America?

    And where would we be without you starting this conversation? Thanks, Crystal!

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  6. Thank you for sharing a wonderful story!!.. hopefully with today’s technology, the people will have a better understanding and learn to respect and accept everyone for who they are and believe.. 🙂

    Hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday filled with peace and love and until we meet again…
    May flowers always line your path
    and sunshine light your way,
    May songbirds serenade your
    every step along the way,
    May a rainbow run beside you
    in a sky that’s always blue,
    And may happiness fill your heart
    each day your whole life through.
    (Irish Saying)

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