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Giving thanks with indigenous traditions and first foods

As part of PSU's Social Sustainability Month, I worked with the SLC’s Food Systems Task Force to organize an event called Thanks Giving: A Celebration and Exploration of Indigenous Traditions and the First Foods, which highlighted the significance of healthy, local food and the role it can play in healing our relationship to the land. The event also offered a starting point for a dialogue around healing relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous people. 

As a sociology major, I have learned how some of the narratives we place value on and view as normal in society can reinforce and perpetuate oppression. I believe this is sometimes the case with the holiday of Thanksgiving. With that, I thought this was an important issue to address as part of Social Sustainability Month. As Renee Lee said while speaking, some indigenous people view Thanksgiving as a day of mourning. I loved how she also pointed out that in many indigenous cultures, thanks giving is something that is done everyday, rather than just once a year. Through the event, I wanted to create a celebratory space in which some of the deeply inspiring Native traditions could be shared. Also, I wanted people to be able to openly engage in a conversation around these topics. 

I learned more in the process leading up to the event than I did at the event itself. United Indian Students in Higher Education (UISHE) was a huge part of why the event was so successful—Renee and Katie welcomed me into their weekly meetings and helped guide me through everything. They were so wonderful, and the event would not have happened without their support. All in all, my biggest takeaway is that in order to create a positive change in this world, we must first invest in developing deep, meaningful, and authentic relationships within our communities.

The Thanks Giving meal included "three sisters" soup with corn, beans, and squash; smoked salmon and sturgeon; corn casserole; and fry bread. Fry bread was incorporated after European colonization and has become a common Native food. Each table included information about the foods being served and had a centerpiece made of cedar, Douglas fir, and Oregon grape.

Danielle Grondin is a senior sociology major and the food systems coordinator for the PSU Sustainability Leadership Center.