I decided to spend Thanksgiving in DC. Everyone else seemed to have plans, so I head into the city looking for a homeless Thanksgiving event. When I got to the place where I thought it was, someone told me it was yesterday. The homeless were somewhere – not out on the street in their usual places. Short of a round-up, they must have had somewhere to go. The guard gives me a hug and some change to get a sandwich. I head over to the American Indian Museum, grabbing a vegetarian taco from the museum cafe that offered Native American dishes from various Native American communities made with seasonal and local vegetables. The taco was on frybread. It tasted kind of like a soft pretzel.
They also had salmon, turkey, bison and a lot of other interesting plates. Someone had kindly left a tray of food out for the person who couldn’t otherwise participate. I was full with the taco.
There was dancing at the museum, and perhaps sensing my loneliness, the Native American who led the drumming divided us all up into clans – eagle Laxsgiik, raven Ganhada, killer whale Gispwudwada, and wolf Laxgibuu, and taught us how to dance according to our clans.
We were introduced to the trickster aka raven, and a few other dances.
A little later I read a Maidu creation story (the tribe is currently located in Northern California) about how the world was created from the mud that the turtle brought up from a 4 day-400 year journey into the sea during a conversation on raft (here I’m imagining the world emerging from the sea as land appears on the horizon perhaps on a raft journey from Hawaii to California). Hummingbird was sent to fetch 2 old men who became each the progenitors of all edible animals and plants, respectively. I’m wondering about Cain and Abel. A little later in the story 2 young boys are burned as they put pitch on a fire and advice from the elder men is given to the tribe (I’m remembering Aaron’s sons). The only common commandment in the story I could find with the 10 commandments was “Respect your elders.”
I guess the man on the (picture) left is distributing seed to the earth. The painting really seems to describe three growing seasons: burning on the (painting) right, planting seed, spring and sun on the lower left, snow in the upper left.
I felt the native connection with animals as I viewed the hand-sculpted art from native materials brought forth by various tribes.
A little bit later, I went over to see the exhibit on the National Parks at the National Botanical Garden. I saw endangered (and not-so-endangered) plants hand-sketched by someone who cared enough to observe every detail – curve and color of these flowers. There was the Osage Orange from the Big Thicket National Preserve, with its edible seed and insect repellent properties. I remembered picking one up with the boys on a hike, and wondering. We call them horse apples.
There were pictures drawn from Yellowstone, Acadia National Forest, Harper’s Ferry, all places that I remember. It almost felt like home. It was also interesting to see the many plants that are commonly found on the table – a chocolate tree, a coffee tree, rice…
Still later, I biked over to the White House with the pups, and said “Thank you” to the President. I also said a little prayer for the new president to be, that they will exercise good stewardship over our precious resources. As thankful that I am to have the museums, I hope that they will not be all that is left of Native culture.
In the hustle and bustle of the day, it was good to remember.