With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it is important to remember the history (or lack thereof) surrounding the American holiday. On Thursday, November 14th, Endicott College offered students an opportunity to talk with someone deeply in touch with his Native American roots and learn more about Indigenous people’s representation throughout history.
Larry “Spotted Crow” Mann, an award-winning Writer, Poet, and Native American Cultural Educator, hosted a dialogue in Endicott’s chapel to share his story and heritage with students and faculty. Mann allowed each person who attended to introduce themselves and state why they were interested, so as to establish a comfortable sense of community.
Mann, a member of the Nipmuc Tribe which predominantly resides in central Massachusetts, began with a story of his own life, and how it relates to Native American representation today. Mann explained his struggles as a minority, as the “5 million” Indigenous people that once inhabited Massachusetts had by this point dwindled down to “roughly 10,000”.
Making him feel even more outcast was the fact that Mann was, as he described, “a first-generation city”. He was amongst the first in his tribe to move to an urban environment and deal with the schooling and mindset there.
An issue that Mann commonly faced was the misconception that all Native Americans were evil, uncivilized, or both. He blames this on how American history is taught in many schools, as it tends to gloss over the hardships and genocide that the colonists brought about to the native people. In addition, the history surrounding holidays such as Thanksgiving is often simplified and fantasized to make the holiday more marketable across America.
Mann believes it is his mission to spread his tribe’s stories and create a more accurate and respectful image for Native Americans. In telling a story of his own, Mann describes his near-death experience from alcohol in his early 20’s. During his hospitalization, he was given the name “Spotted Crow” and told that he would go on to share his stories and act as a bridge between cultures.
Although there is still progress to be made, Mann stated that he was proud of how far Native American acceptance had come. Having kids of his own, he can already see a change in how his culture is represented.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, Mann does not necessarily believe there was ever a peaceful feast between pilgrims and Native Americans. However, family values, gratitude, and sharing are all concepts supported by the Nipmuc tribe, as long as those are the most prominent aspects when it comes to Thanksgiving celebrations.
For those looking to further celebrate Native American Heritage Month before the break, Endicott’s Reverend Gail Cantor is hosting a Shamanic Journey on Tuesday, November 19th.