Our local elementary school invited Chief Robert Tall Tree and wife Terri Lynn (“as seen on PBS”) to present a program called “Walking in Wisdom.” Using Native American stories and culture, they spoke to the kids about respect—respect for one’s self and for each other, for the earth and all living things. They talked about dreams and talents and how those are relative to one’s purpose in life. Every creature has a purpose, every person has a purpose… “I am a gift to the world,” the kids repeated.
What I love most about the Indian culture is the storytelling, the passing down of legends and wisdom to the children, rather a lost art in today’s world. Indian storytelling is full of imaginings of how things came to be, respect for the land and all the creatures in it, and moral stories that teach proper (respectful) behavior. They try to keep their culture alive, which is difficult in modern times when kids can be bent on being just like everybody else.
Maybe the kids won’t really be interested until they are older, but it doesn’t hurt in the meantime to talk about the cultural heritage of the family whether it means a “southern heritage” or a “New England heritage” or a “farm culture” or the culture of a foreign country. My oldest daughter, looking at colleges for next year, mentioned she wanted to take the “Japanese culture” class if she went to a certain university. I thought I would fall over in shock! She’s never been particularly interested in her heritage before!
My youngest daughter had an assignment to act as a storyteller to her class, telling a family story from parents or grandparents. I told her to ask her father about spending summers on his grandparents’ farm and picking eggs out from under chickens, but he went off on a business trip before she could talk to him about it. She decided instead to tell about Great MaMa, who died recently, and how even though she was blind she was able to crochet colorful dish cloths by feeling the stitches with her hands. We have no idea how she was able to weave the different colors in so beautifully, but her children and grandchildren all have lovely soft cloths to remember MaMa by. Guess I’d better save a couple for her great-grandchildren.
The gathering of families for Thanksgiving is a perfect time to give thanks not only for the goodness, great or small, in our lives, but for the blessing of family. As we gather around, let’s enjoy our traditional recipes, tell stories, and honor the oldest among us as the gateways to our heritage. May you find many blessings to be thankful for.
Fresh Pumpkin Pie
1 ½ cup pumpkin puree
¾ cup sugar
½ cup milk
1 ½ tsp vanilla
Clean out a small pie pumpkin and cut in half. Microwave each half on High, cut side down, in a pie plate filled with 1/8 inch water until a fork goes in easily (15-20 minutes each half). Drain, cool, remove flesh and puree in a blender. Add remaining ingredients to 1 ½ c of pumpkin puree, pour into a smaller size pie pan with a graham cracker crust or unbaked pie shell. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Bake at 375F for 45 minutes until set. Makes a delicious custard-like pie, incomparable to use of canned pumpkin. Serve with dollops of whipped cream.
Ginger Graham Crust
1 ½ c graham cracker crumbs
6 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
1/3 c sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
Toss gently to mix, spread into a pie plate, pressing onto bottom and sides. Bake at 375F for 4-5 minutes to set. Cool before filling.