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Ann Cannon: Celebrating Thanksgiving no matter where your great-great-great-grandmother is from

First Published      Last Updated Feb 17 2016 02:49 pm

We have this story in our family that we're descended on my mother's side from a member of the Wyandotte Indian tribe.

I first heard it when I was a kid, and I cannot even begin to tell you how utterly AWESOME I thought this piece of information was. Without my Wyandotte great-great-great-grandmother swinging her legs on a limb of the family tree, I was just another boring run-of-the-mill kid of English and Scottish descent, with enough German thrown in to make me crave a good bratwurst sandwich now and then.

But the whole Wyandotte thing? That made me different somehow. Special. Exotic, even.




I used the story of my heritage to explain certain things about myself when I was growing up. Like my olive skin, for example. I could play outside in the sunshine for hours and hours and never burn, unlike my friend Gigi Ballif who had red hair, blue eyes and fair Scandinavian skin. (Remember Gigi? She's the one who took out a tree with a car when we were in driver ed together, thus causing our teacher, Mr. Moon, to wish once and for all that teenage girls had never been invented.)

And speaking of teenage girls, I spent my entire adolescence basting myself like a turkey with baby oil and hanging out at the local swimming pool. Even then I still didn't burn, thanks to my Wyandotte great-great-great-grandma.

I was especially grateful for my heritage during the month of November when we learned about the pilgrims in grade school and how they would have starved to death without the Indians around to teach them about corn. Y'all, those were my people schooling the pilgrims, and I was proud of it. My heritage made me bona fide. An original American. A real true American.

Even after I grew up I was still interested in this part of my heritage. I was intrigued by books about different tribal cultures, and when Al Gore finally got around to inventing the Internet, I hung out a little on the Wyandotte Nation's website.

And then one day I decided to do some actual research. …

OK. In case you haven't heard, here's the problem with "actual research." You might learn something you didn't want to know.

Here's what (I think) I discovered. My Wyandotte great-great-great-grandmother was more like my Wyandotte great-great-great-aunt. By marriage. Which would mean I am not actually descended from the woman who was once my great-great-great-grandmother but who now appears to have been my great-great-great-aunt.

I know it's silly, but I can't tell you how disappointed I was to learn this. I felt like I did the day that Kurt Apostle — PARENTS, DO NOT READ THIS PART ALOUD TO YOUR CHILDREN — told me the devastating truth about Santa Claus, which confirmed my troubling suspicion that the man I'd visited earlier at the Cottonwood Mall was indeed wearing a fake beard. A really bad fake beard.

So. There it was. I wasn't bona fide after all. Would Thanksgiving ever feel the same again?

Well, of course it did! Please. I'm not that big of a drama queen. And also come on! Thanksgiving is the best, the most inclusive American holiday of them all. It doesn't matter where your people came from. It doesn't matter when they arrived here. Everyone is invited to pull up a chair to the turkey table a week from Thursday and say a word of thanks.

I can't wait.

 

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