Harvest Day deconstructs the history behind Thanksgiving

By Elizabeth Aquino and Joanne Guintu

Web Editor & Staff Writer

Associated Student Inc. (ASI) BEAT honored Native Americans and their history with the event Harvest Day: Reconstructing Thanksgiving, which deconstructed the westernized concept of Thanksgiving through food, dances and discussions. The well-attended event was held in the Bronco Student Center Ursa Major on Nov. 26.

The event started with an opening prayer, recited by Julia Bogany, a member of the Tongva Tribe. Bogany explained that praying is very important in Native American culture.

Before the Thanksgiving meal was served, the food was blessed by another prayer. “(We) bless the food and the hands that make the food,” Bogany told the attendees.

The meal prepared by Cal Poly Pomona students featured traditional Southern California Indian foods, such as salmon, wild rice, corn, California cactus salad and chia pudding. Attendees were also given a choice between lemongrass tea and chai tea.

Elders were served first, as a form of respect. 

After everyone finished his or her traditional Native American dinner, the panel discussion began.

The panel consisted of Native Americans from different tribes and of different ages. 

Harvest Day panelists intended to spread awareness about the true meaning and history behind Thanksgiving.
Joanne Guintu | The Poly Post

The panelist spoke about their life experiences and shared their take on Native American traditions. They also advocated for more awareness of Native American history in the school system, since they want to ensure their culture is passed down in the correct way.

After the panel ended, attendees had the opportunity to ask any questions or express concerns they had. Ultimately, the panel hoped the campus community would learn from their experiences and begin spreading awareness about the true history behind Thanksgiving. 

“The way Thanksgiving is done, the way (you’ll celebrate) in a few days, is not the way the first Thanksgiving actually happened, or (a representation of) the way Native people are,” Bogany said. “We d(id) not sit around the table with Pilgrims. We d(id) not wear feathers in our cap. We d(id) not gather the turkey and kill it and put it on the table, or any other story you’ve heard.”

The event also included a traditional Native American dance performance by Torress Martinez Tribal students. 

Ranging from 2 to 12 years old, the elementary school students dressed in bright, traditional clothing. With big smiles on their faces, the students proudly performed multiple dances, which represented different tribes and origins of the Native Americans. 

Joanne Guintu | The Poly Post

Members who attended were encouraged to donate school supplies in exchange for prizes from BEAT and the Native American Student Center (NASC). All of the donations went to the Torress Martinez Tribal TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) K-12 students. 

Gabi Wijdaja, a second-year psychology student, attended Harvest Day and enjoyed the panel.

“My favorite part about the event was the panel and the conversation of what Thanksgiving is to them and their heritage,” Wijdaga said. “We need to be more informed about this culture.”

Wijdaja also hopes others will start to respect the real history behind Thanksgiving.

“(Thanksgiving) is not just a national holiday. In the perspective of Native Americans, (it) is a national day of mourning,” she said. 

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