CELEBRATING HO-CHUNK DAY: A Look Into Native American Celebrations in November
Ho-Chunk Nation President Jon Greendeer talks Ho-Chunk Day
words & photos by Nicole Lincoln |
The time between October and December is an important time for many indigenous people. For Ho-Chunk people, the month of November is busy but also a time to meet with family. Ho-Chunk Day (Black Friday) became a holiday unconventionally but is now held every year.
Ho-Chunk Nation President Jon Greendeer recalled when they first announced Ho-Chunk Day back in January 2005. He stated that it initially started as a holiday since most people were off work the week of Thanksgiving and it made no sense to have the tribal offices open.
Much like many other Wisconsinites, the tribal office workers were preparing for deer hunting season and traveling to their hometowns for Thanksgiving – yes, many indigenous people celebrate Thanksgiving, but not in the traditional sense. Thanksgiving for indigenous families is more about coming together and sharing a meal, as opposed to celebrating the holiday itself. Just like everyone else, who wants to work on a Friday after having the whole week off after long days of hunting and filling up on delicious turkey?
The day eventually transitioned into a day of being proud of your heritage. It’s another day to spend with family and express gratitude, a time to reflect on the year and prepare for the next year. Ho-Chunk communities across Wisconsin and in Chicago and the Twin Cities all have their own ways of celebrating Ho-Chunk Day, which typically includes games, prizes, art, cultural demonstrations, exhibitions, and a shared meal.
Greendeer expressed that while it may have started as an extra well-deserved day off for workers, it turned into a day that many look forward to every year. While many still celebrate Thanksgiving, Ho-Chunk Day holds a deeper meaning.
Over the years, indigenous pride was not something publicized and it is only within the last decade that tribes like the Ho-Chunk Nation can showcase their heritage to those who show respect and appreciation to the culture. November is Native American Heritage Month, but this recognition isn’t so much for indigenous people as it is for non-indigenous people to learn about those who came before and the history of the land.
The road to this point hasn’t been a pretty one for indigenous people, but fall and the month of November are times to appreciate and show recognition for native people.