By Samantha Padilla, Nov. 15, 2022

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, the Cal Poly Pomona Natives Aiming to Inspire Values in Education Pipeline Program held a Harvest Day: Reconstructing Thanksgiving event in the Bronco Student Center on Nov. 10. 

The idea that Thanksgiving was a celebration of peace and friendship between Native Americans and the Pilgrims was pushed onto children in the education system. This false notion is a product through colonialism and institutional racism. 

“The purpose of the Harvest Day: Reconstructing Thanksgiving for me is having people be aware that Indigenous people are still here and we’re still thriving,” said history graduate student Madi Garcia. “For me, that’s the biggest takeaway, but also acknowledging the hardship of the history behind Thanksgiving.” 

The event started with an opening prayer led by Julia Bogany, a member of the Tongva Tribe. Prayers are a significant element in the Native American culture, blessing and honoring those who made the food. 

The Collins College of Hospitality Management prepared meals with the use of traditional Native American foods. This included foods such as chicken, salmon, wild rice, California cactus salad and chia pudding.  

As a form of respect, the elders were served first, followed by the performers and the attendees which ranged from students, faculty and Native American community members. 

Isabel Tabaha Satala, lead mentor for the NATIVE Pipeline Program, spoke about the extensiveness of the preparation.

Samantha Padilla | The Poly Post

“We weren’t sure if we were going to do it, considering the pandemic and all,” said Satala. “But it feels great seeing people’s faces again and being together, especially since our last Harvest Day was before the pandemic.” 

After attendees finished their traditional Native American dinner, the Native community panel discussion began featuring CPP Native American students, faculty and alumni. 

The panelists spoke about their life experiences, thoughts regarding Native American representation, what it means to be Native American, and what they are most proud of from their culture. 

After the panel ended, CPP Native American students mentioned the desire to receive more representation and have people educate themselves and spread awareness about the true history behind Thanksgiving.  

The Harvest Day celebration continued with live performances of Native American traditional dances and music. 

The dancers then welcomed the attendees to be part of the “round dance,” a dance where participants move in a circular counterclockwise pattern around the dance floor. Attendees from different tribes and cultures created a circle and danced around, holding hands while moving to the beat of the music. 

The event included a raffle where NATIVE encouraged attendees to donate school supplies or hygiene products to win a raffle prize. Prizes included CPP merchandise, handmade Native American jewelry and bluebird flour, which is used to make authentic Native American frybread. 

“It feels good being here today and being able to share and educate our community about our culture and different traditions,” said Litzia Sierra, a Native Yucatan tribe member attendee. “I would like people to educate themselves and research before celebrating certain festivities like Thanksgiving because there’s nothing to celebrate about Thanksgiving.” 

For more Native American Heritage Month events, check out the Native American Center Student website.   

Feature image courtesy of Samantha Padilla

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