Calera tribe celebrates harvest, not Thanksgiving

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Contrary to common Thanksgiving depictions of Pilgrims and Indians, according to Marsha &8220;Many Moons&8221; Rice, many Native Americans regard the fourth Thursday of November as a black day.

Some tribe members may celebrate the American holiday with their families, but members of Yellow Leaf Creek tribe in Calera will celebrate fall harvest on Saturday, showing tribute to their ancestors. Turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes are replaced by traditional Native American fare such as fried hominy, baked cucumbers, acorn bread and Indian pudding.

Recipes for the unusual delicacies are the result of tribe-members&8217; continual research. At one of their bi-monthly meetings, members discuss their knowledge of Native American history and heritage, and participate in different demonstrations like learning to make tomahawks and spears.

With a wide variety of native bloods represented and more being added every month, knowledge of Native American heritage and traditions continues to grow in the tribe.

Part of the fall harvest celebration includes a ritual sending up of smoke. &8220;Smoke is one of sacred things in Cherokee nation,&8221; said Rice.

&8220;We burn sage and it&8217;s used to bless the food and cleanse us before we eat.&8221; The herb is burned in a shell and each tribe member comes forward and prays, as a cleansing smoke is fanned onto them.

Rice explained that actually much of the fall harvest celebration day is spent in prayer and reflection, remembering the hardships and massacres of early Native Americans.

&8220;It&8217;s a sacred day for us. We think about our ancestors and what they went through for us,&8221; Rice said.

The tribe, begun a year ago, now has around 45 members. Chief Frank &8220;Thundering Buffalo&8221; Reece leads the tribe.

The group isn&8217;t state or federally recognized and doesn&8217;t intend to be, opting to focus instead on keeping Native American stories and traditions alive and passing down their heritage to Native American youth.