If you’re non-indigenous American like me, you probably love Thanksgiving. But have you been loving it the right way?
In my family, we wake up at the crack of dawn and share a bottle of red wine to kick off turkey day. Normally we’re not wine drinkers – and, hey, everybody knows pinot goes best with poultry – but red wine symbolizes the blood of the millions of Native Americans unfortunately murdered so that we might call this land our own. And, as non-indigenous Americans, is there anything we should be more thankful for than those slaughtered native tribes?
So we toast to those son of a bitches; the Cherokee, the Apache … and the other guys, because – even though their forgotten corpses lay tangled in unmarked graves – their sacrifices were not without merit.
Have you seen The Voice this season?
Armed with an early morning buzz, the men in the family hop in the pickup truck for a few hours of hunting. We pick a familiar trail, head west and shoot anything that doesn’t agree with us. No one in the group has a license to kill, but that’s sort of the point.
Our scattered shots usually guarantee little reward from the trip, but in ’96 the truck struck a deer and slid its limp body across the asphalt. Unfortunately, none of us knew how to dispose of the animal and its weight proved too much of a burden for us to carry.
After the rigorous morning of indiscriminate gunfire, we head to town, locate our village’s oldest resident and force that goon to walk the streets as a one-man parade while the youngest boys hurl plastic knives at his back. The dreary bastard zigzags from street to street (a staple of any proper death march reenactment) before boarding a bus that will take him to a new arbitrarily selected home. We then liquidate his belongings via a garage sale and donate the proceeds to a local high school’s Future Farmer’s of America chapter.
Now, back at the house, the women work tirelessly preparing our feast. Like most families, our matriarch sodomizes a turkey carcass with breadcrumbs, celery and onions while the others tell jokes.
If Blake Shelton were that stuffing, I’d gladly be the bird.
And is there really any better symbol for Thanksgiving than a turkey? It’s a native creature, cursed with clipped wings and a reliance on the land, unable to flee the will of its captors. To show the metaphor is not lost on our family, we also grant a stay of execution for one of those beasts (after its forced conversion to Christianity).
As noon rolls around and the men return, everyone’s attention shifts to football. Last year the Dallas Cowboys played the Washington Redskins in a game we hoped would pay homage to centuries of Native American genocide, but Robert Griffin III selfishly marched his Redskins to a 38-31 win over America’s Team.
If only those Cowboys were armed!
After football, it’s finally time to gobble down some turkey. We take turns with the electric carver, making sure everyone feels the sensation of cutting through flesh, and use a plastic spatula to serve the shredded portions onto styrofoam plates. We then say a quick prayer and list famous Native Americans no longer with us.
Sitting Bull: Dakota.
Bobby Sixkiller: Renegade, the series.
At this point – while your family might sit back, consider all your blessings and shoot sincere smiles across the table – our family declares war. We don’t politely ask for a pass of the sweet potatoes or a pull from the cranberry sauce. We reach out and take what we want! Matter of fact, if someone snags a section of overly succulent thigh, he or she might get kicked in the gut and left with table scraps. Those are the breaks. After all, this is Thanksgiving and we’re non-indigenous Americans.
We’ll fill our faces for a few hours before the women launch a mini-marathon of their favorite Native American films – Dances with Wolves (Kevin Costner), The Last of the Mohicans (Daniel Day Lewis), Thunderheart (Val Kilmer) – and the children gather in another room to watch either Disney’s Pocahontas or James Cameron’s Avatar. To be honest, the kids don’t care enough to notice the difference.
This is when we men, once again fueled by a solid cabernet buzz, find ourselves in a pickle. You see, after the great feast and the tryptophan-induced coma that follows, Thanksgiving more or less becomes Black Friday Eve. Suddenly our entire day of paying tribute to these enslaved, displaced and massacred tribes turns into an evening of anxiety over paying tribute to the shopping holiday that follows.
Instead of returning our crates of unused ammunition or recapturing the pardoned turkey and selling it on craigslist, we do what any non-indigenous Americans would when faced with self-imposed financial hardships: We go to the casino. And, luckily for us, the local gambling establishment, operated by natives, observes regular business hours during late November.
So we burst through the doors like we own the place – red wine stains covering our mouths – and trudge across the casino floor while still straining from the spoils of our hefty banquet. To the natives we must resemble a pack of non-indigenous zombies returning to complete the eradication of their race, but we ease their concerns by laying down our collective life savings for a lone blackjack bet.
Most years, luck is not on our side. After watching hopelessly as the dealer collects our hard-earned money, an errant fist will emerge from our group, fly across the table and strike the employee’s jaw. A fight then erupts, which leads to us being drug outside and tossed onto the asphalt like some everyday damn roadkill.
And as we walk back to the truck – bloody, broken and embarrassed – our shouts echo across the parking lot, over the purple mountains and above the fruited plain.
How would you son of a bitches feel if we took everything you had?
And that, my fellow non-indigenous Americans, is how to properly celebrate Thanksgiving.
A Note From the Author: If commemorating the ethnic cleansing of your own country seems like a heavy cross to bear, just remember you have another 364 days not to memorialize the Native American genocide. If anything, the resiliency of our nation’s collective conscience is as crucial to our wellbeing as the discarded Native American remains we stand, walk and dance on today.
Written by Jason Sereno
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