Sponsored by Native Student Programs (NSP), The Real Thanksgiving is an annual dinner that aims “to highlight what actually happened on Thanksgiving,” as well as “native foods of local tribes,” Elizabeth Shulterbrandt, Assistant Director of NSP, told The Redlands Bulldog.
However, plans for the night on Nov. 20 were interrupted following the announcement of the death of student Jacob Green ‘20 from the College Dean and University Dean of Student Affairs.
The tone of the night was much more somber than anticipated, and the dinner became a night to express gratitude for our loved ones.
Nora Pulskamp, Director of NSP, told the newspaper that The Real Thanksgiving intends to spotlight Native American identities in a narrative from which they are often excluded.
Thanksgiving was only recognized as a national holiday in 1863 under the Lincoln administration in the midst of the Civil War. Before then, individual colonies independently celebrated “days of thanksgiving” between the time the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared a meal in 1621 and when President Lincoln federally proclaimed an annual day of feast that would take place in November.
At the event, Race and Ethnic Studies Professor Lawrence Gross said “one thing you don’t learn is that Native Americans had agency,” and that often times they’re portrayed as background figures in European history.
NSP was founded in 2011 and is affiliated with the United Indigenous Native Collective, previously known as the Native American Student Union (NASU). Funded by San Manuel, NSP’s purpose is to support and provide services for native students according to Shulterbrandt. Events sponsored by NSP are open to all students on campus.
Holding annual Thanksgiving dinners to honor Native cultures and traditions “predates Native Student Programs [at the university],” and was previously a part of celebratory dinners put on by CDI, said Pulskamp.
Professor Gross initiated the night with a prayer and reminded students to “keep [Green] and his family in our thoughts.”
Green majored in race and ethnic studies in the College of Arts and Sciences while acting as an intern for Campus Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) and the Title IX Office under Erica Moorer, as reported by the University Dean of Student Affairs and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
The assistant director of CDI Peter Tupou, while speaking about his close relationship with Green, commented that “Jacob, whenever he was around, was the light.”
The rest of the evening followed with musical and dance performances from Sage Romero, a member of the Paiute and Taos Pueblo tribes. Romero did a traditional Native American hoop dance in which the shapes made with the hoops are used to represent living creatures. The purpose of the dances are to heal people and help alleviate sadness, said Romero before he started his performance.
Students and faculty members of various backgrounds were present. Dinner included salad with diced apples, sliced turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and the traditional native dish “Three Sisters Stew.”
As dinner came to a close and Romero concluded his performances, he commented “I do this in memory of that young man that recently passed.”
Photograph by Miracle Cariaga.