Native Americans enrich the tapestry of our American culture’s quilt

By Caryl Clem:

As a young child, I colored pictures of Pilgrims and Native Americans. I remember teepees and 2 seated skin canoes floating down rivers.   Years later, I discovered most of my knowledge about Indians was either false or based on a stereotype. November is the month to honor our Native American Indians.

Powerful prose continuously unites people when they share life’s experiences.  Distances disappear; the common desire for love embraces all. Joy Harjo, who has written poetry, published books and composed songs for decades; a Muskogee Indian was awarded the 23rd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress on June 19, 2019.  Her quote” how time and timelessness can live together in a poem” during one of her interviews provides insight into the depth of her prose.  Playing saxophone in her band, “Arrow Dynamics”, several CD’s of her original music cumulated in receiving Native American Music Award for Best Female Artist of the Year in 2009. Listening to her music allows you experience layers of harmony and song.  Joy currently is writing a book that documents the contributions to jazz the Muskogee Indians can trace back to Congo Square in New Orleans.

New Orleans, Louisiana, world renown for gaudy, fascinating costumes featured during Mardi Gras celebrations. The Port of New Orleans constantly shipped slaves, a key labor force.   Local Indian tribes had had their own conflicts with “White Rule”.   Native Americans helped hide runaway Black slaves during Mardi Gras parades using elaborate costumes as a disguise.

The Cherokee Nation, a tribe from Iroquoian descent, inhabited the eight states in The Great Lakes area. Transportation across the water was done in huge hollowed out tree trunks, averaging 40 feet in length carrying 20 men.  Families built log cabins. The food staples known as the “Three Sisters” of corn, beans, and squash are found in any supermarket. Spices for flavor and medicinal purposes were Sassafras, Sage, Juniper, and various Chile peppers. In 1621, an Indian Chief brought popcorn to a Thanksgiving dinner.  The Spanish introduced peanuts to the Indians who learned to grow them.   In the Northwest, symbols of marriages and births in a family were carved into totem poles: visible sign of their wealth and influence.

Education of its citizens was considered the great equalizer; The Cherokee Nation formed an accepted common language and ran a printing press publishing its own newspaper in the 1820’s.   (Chicago’s earliest printer in 1833.)  The literacy rate of Cherokee citizens in Oklahoma ranked higher than the neighboring states of Arkansas or Texas.  Chief John Ross constructed the Cherokee Female Seminary in 1847, the first higher learning school available for women west of the Mississippi.  The Cherokee Male Seminary opened in 1851.  Cherokee sports included a stick ball game considered the beginning of Lacrosse, a popular sport today.

Native Americans are one of the reasons Americans are able to live in “Land of the Free”. Americans working on dreams coming true, in the country we love, all sharing the foundation given us by those who were here first.

Celebrating autumn

By Caryl Clem:

September 23 marks the first day of autumn. Toiling farmers are grateful for the harvesting of their crops. As the days grow cooler, you feel renewed energy to join others for festive holidays during the fall season. My enthusiasm to travel to an apple orchard remains as poignant as my first time searching for the perfect apple. In the past few years, I preferred the apples to be picked, labeled, and available for tasting. Last weekend I was a kid again biting into crisp apples discerning which apple candidate was the winner. With my friend, we discussed what to purchase from the selection of sugar free preserves and while drinking a sample of apple cider. On the return trip home, several apple edibles chased hunger away.

One of my favorite flavors of ice cream is Pumpkin Spice.  Various squashes appear on supermarket shelves increasing food options for dinner. Popular favorites include butternut, earthy, sweet Chinese Kabocha, Spaghetti ‘s light strands great for sauces, round acorn squash , sweet Japanese red Kuri , sweet dumpling squash, delicata squash, sugar pumpkin ,blue hubbard and banana squash. In every meal, an autumn food star can spice up your palette.

An increasing number of consumers are learning how to preserve harvested vegetables and fruits. The pressure cooker would beep and whistle while my mother showed me how to convert the entire garden’s bounty into jars. The heat outside often matched the heat inside our tiny kitchen. Canning is a process that demands fortitude and patience.  Instead of the long canning process, freezing, drying and fermentation techniques are used more often.  To acquaint yourself with the newest techniques, check out this article.

Chicago offers 3 large beer festivals at the end of September, 312 Block Party Goose Island Brewery, United Center, September 20 2019-September 21 2019 / Revolution Oktoberfest, Revolution Brewing, Logan Square, BeerHoptacular, Vertiport Chicago, Little Italy, UIC, September 28 2019.  If you are in the mood to sip a beer, here is a calendar website There is abundance of small town beer festivals as well as in the suburbs.

Harvest feasts vary across the world.  In grade school, coloring pictures of Pilgrims and the Native Americans taught that the harvest Thanksgiving was first celebrated in the last Thursday in November. The history books left out the first harvest dinner celebration held in Jamestown. Germans served bountiful meals to celebrate the harvest time after the autumn moon that fell on the first Sunday in October. Both the Protestant and Catholic churches honored this day with religious services. Jamestown residents in 1610 held an Erntedankfest known as a Harvest Home) supper.

Pilgrims from England had the experience of participating in a religious feast that occurred after honoring St Michael’s mass on September 29.  All gathered at one location to participate in a food and craft market with dancing, singing, eating and playing games.  Maidens in parades wore corn wreaths; before the feast was to begin a queen was chosen. Lastly, townsfolk adorned the home and alter with corn dolls to ensure prosperity.  This holiday would happen after the women preformed the final “gleaning” of the fields. Those who ate geese thought it would lead to financial prosperity. The county fairs at the end of summer bear many similarities to old harvest customs. During Celtic rule in Ireland, harvest was on August 15.  A favorite part of the Irish festival was a horse swimming competition. In America, the Thanksgiving dinner was proclaimed a National Holiday by President Lincoln in 1863.

Fall has arrived featuring the gratitude for a bountiful harvest, the satisfaction of eating autumn star foods with friends and family, attending festivals blending old and new customs, and exploring the world of past and present when retelling ghost stories.

Just Thankful

Thanksgiving’s historical beginnings belong to the Pilgrims and the Winnebago Indians who celebrated the harvest festival. For us, it is a day of remembrance that we spend with family featuring fine foods such as turkey, giblets, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables and a variety of pies, pumpkin usually being the first on everyone’s list. Good food, though a part of the Thanksgiving history, is always a priority and excuse for any holiday here in the US.

However, another added tribute to Thanksgiving is football in America as the male counterparts of the family gather in front of the set, stomachs ready for the game ahead though in some households many try to make that annual attempt to toss their own ball in the back as the women wait to see who will be the first injured player. But that is ok, it is tradition.

As families prepare for the festivities gathering the necessary ingredients for the grand table, many do find some quiet time to evaluate the year and decide what they are truly thankful for during the holiday season. And the list can vary from the joy of being a grandparent to even finding a close parking space on Black Friday. But, thankfully, Thanksgiving encourages the lists of thanks for the simple pleasures, wonderful people, and maybe just another year of life to spend with those we love. Gratitude is taught and hopefully remembered throughout our days beyond the yearly celebration where we can truly reflect on how lucky we are in our own light.

So here it is again, my list of never ending thankful moments and surprisingly, with the exception of new personal introductions of family and friends, it always focuses on the same.

  • I am thankful for time and not wasting it.
  • I am thankful for great books, hobbies and the word bored that is not a part of my vocabulary
  • I am thankful for logs in my fireplace and the fire starters that really work.
  • I am thankful that I refuse to give up on my dreams.
  • I am thankful that I will never be too old.
  • I am thankful that my daughter bakes better pastries than me.
  • I am thankful that Len does all the cooking
  • But I am thankful for my son who gave me a instant pot to try to cook once again and I love it
  • I am thankful for all my classroom children that teach me how to be a child again
  • I am thankful for Gladys Knight and the Pips my favorite recording of “You Are the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” because it honors so many in my life.
  • I am thankful for our service men and women who courageously fight today and sacrifice their own desires
  • I am thankful for my pet, who is always waiting for me
  • I am thankful that I don’t have to choose my words carefully; my pet always knows what I mean.
  • I am thankful that my mistakes have guided others.
  • I am thankful for all of you who so faithfully read my articles and for those out there that always bounce back when life seems to curve so dangerously without warning and inspire others to charge ahead with positive anticipation and grace.

And, finally, as my personal collection of years keep passing me by, I am truly grateful that my gratitude list richly grows for without the essence of being grateful for so much, nothing else can make a difference.

Originally published in Grand Magazine