When you think of how Americans typically celebrate Thanksgiving, it's usually a big meal with lots of family and maybe even friends. But for Bill Paulson and the rest of the Ojibwe tribe on the White Earth Reservation, it's practically a year-round event.
"Every time we turn around, we're giving thanks," Paulson explained to a crowd of faculty, students and community members in the University of Minnesota, Crookston's Bede Ballroom Tuesday afternoon. He went on to say that they have big celebrations to give thanks at least six times a year, and it's very much a nature based-thing, as well as community.
Each year, many harvests take place, whether it be berries, maple, or wild rice. Everyone in the tribe contributes to a harvest, Paulson explained, and they make sure everything has been taken care of before moving on to the next thing. At the end of each harvest, they come together and share what has been gathered. The biggest harvest is the wild rice, which Paulson believes is why they have settled there. "We would take care of the wild rice, and the wild rice would take care of us," he said. The harvest is so big, they have wild rice "camps." When it's done, they invite others to share in the bounty.
It's all about "community," he said. "Native pride today is a sense of meaning, a sense of feeling in the community," he explained. In fact, the traditional pow-wows were meant to be social events. "The pow-wow as a social function was really about a celebration of the the year, when everything settled down," Paulson said. "People would come together from different communities, European, Native, whatever, for more than a day or two. They would bring the drums out...share stories, do dances, and they would sit and visit."
When it really comes down to it, what was Paulson's point? "There really is not just one Thanksgiving. So, if we're going to Thanksgiving, try to be thankful every day," he said.