Black walnuts, chia seeds, pine nuts, peppernuts, sunflower seeds, rose hips, and acorns were gathered stored in large willow granaries to season.
Americaâs modern-day Thanks- giving celebration was created as a holiday by President Lincoln in 1863, as a way to âheal the gap in familiesâ due to the Civil War. As far as American history books are concerned, the very first Thanksgiving dates back to 1621 when pilgrims and Native Americans shared a fall harvest feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts. At that time, the Native Americans were the ones to share their unique eats, including wild fowl, maize, and gathered greens.
The Native culture emphasizes giving thanks every day and for every activity. One of my elders even had a good morning coffee thanksgiving song, sung as the coffee brewed. The seasons were honored and celebrated for their gifts.
Now is the time for the Fall Harvest, in the Gabrielino-Tongva calendar known as Aaguit, the Time of Nuts and Acorns. Over millennia, families and villages would come together at gathering camps to gather the fall bounty to tide them over during the cold, rainy winter. The main food gathered were acorns, the staple of the California Indian diet. Highly nutritious and high in fatty acids, it is the perfect companion to game meats. Also gathered were black walnuts, chia seeds, pine nuts, peppernuts, sunflower seeds, and rose hips. Acorns were stored in large willow granaries to season for several months before they could be prepared. The seasoned acorns were taken as needed from the bottom and new ones added to the top.
Meat was provided by wild game and fish: venison, wild turkey, quail, and geese, rabbit, woodrat, and squirrel. Fish included salmon (northern California), bass, sea fish and shellfish, and steelhead trout that once inhabited Topanga Creek. Efforts have been underway for years to restore their habitat.
Meals were prepared and shared by community. People lived in extended families and cooperated in a network of dynamic balance. One gathered for community. One hunted or fished for community. One knew that the community âhad their back.â Elders, children, the injured or ill were included and cared for knowing that the survival of one needed the eam approach of the community.
Life was not all work and no play. In fact, in most Native languages, there was no word for âwork.â Kids played games of skill, honing their future skills as hunters and gatherers, alert and aware of their surroundings. There were racing games, stick ball games, âshinny,â and rabbit stick throwing games. For adults, there were stave dice and guessing games, ceremonial and social dances. There was always time to relax and to dream.
In the past, my family has spent Thanksgiving cooking and serving food at a homeless shelter, but this is a very strange year. My family is in Brazil and quarantining at home in Culver City. I am thankful for FaceTime so we can virtually hug, but I keep in mind, that Thanksgiving is not just one day, but every day, and we will be able to gather together again. Soon?
In the meantime, we give thanks. We give thanks to our grandfather, for our Mother Earth, for our ancestors, for our veterans, for our daily blessings, and for our opportunities to pass our culture and heritage to future generations.