Native Americans don’t just live on reservations, we live in cities, and we live internationally. I grew up in the Silicon Valley of California. I was born in the city and have lived here my whole life, as an “Urban Native.” My grandfather moved to California from Mohawk territory in the 1950s after he served in Korea, and we have all lived in Sunnyvale ever since.
The challenges I grew up around were different from my Oyaté (family) out on the reservations. It is easier to lose our sense of culture living among so many established settler communities. If I didn’t find my community, my Native family or my traditional support, I’d get swallowed up by colonialism.
As a child, Thanksgiving was for me what it is for most children ― a day when you spend time with family, talking or thinking about what you’re thankful for. You color some turkey pages and then you eat a lot of food. My family worked really hard to keep the narrative of the dinner between Indians and Pilgrims out of it. The only time I was exposed to this story of a dinner between Pilgrims and Indians was when I was in elementary school. Growing up in an established settler community like the Bay Area, I was not given much perspective on the holiday. I was told: “This dinner happened. Here, wear this paper feather headdress and let’s eat some cookies bought at Safeway.” . . .