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A Native American Thanksgiving

In observance of Thanksgiving, it is my pleasure to present a guest post from my friend Diane Mitchell, whom I have known since elementary school. Both of us grew up in the same rural area in western AZ. Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving to you!


By Diane Mitchell

Old age must be getting to me, because my memory of Thanksgiving as I was growing up south of Poston is not entirely clear.  Unbelievable!

Anyway, in the 1940s, my Mom and Dad relocated from the Navajo Nation to the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT), Parker/Poston area in western Arizona.  I went to many of the same locales and schools that Joe attended (but not at the same time, hah!).

We would go to some of the Thanksgiving Dinners at Irataba Hall, the Tribe’s gymnasium.  Growing up in this area, my brothers and sisters (8 total, but maybe only 7 grew up in Parker) were not familiar with a “traditional” Thanksgiving. But then again, tradition is what you make it.

One of my brothers reminded me of the times we would go hike in the mountains around Poston after the big dinner. I remember we tried sliding down the big dirt hill using cardboard boxes or whatever we had to use at the time (Native snow sledding!). We would hike up and around the top of these mountains east of Poston, and various mesas near our house. We never thought of the possibilities of rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, bobcats, lions-and-tigers-and-bears-oh my!

We were kids and we were fearless.

Most of my siblings were into sports, and some were distance runners. One time, my brother Jr. ran to a mesa and made a big letter “A”, running up and down, and sideways.  We could actually see the letter from our kitchen window.

I also remember that we often traveled back to my parents’ homelands on the Navajo Reservation to visit my Grandmother Marie and other relatives, for Thanksgiving, summers, and I believe most holidays. My parents would pack us (all the kids) into Dad’s truck camper and off we’d go. We would fight and yell as well as sleep in the camper. My parents never heard any of this commotion as they sat in the front of the pickup cab. Lucky them.

I remember eating a lot of mutton (lamb meat) that we Navajos are big fans of. My Grandma Marie had over 200 sheep, and she would herd the sheep around the mountains of her home. That’s probably what we had for Thanksgiving dinner, instead of turkey. In fact, I’m quite sure.

We would watch Grandma Marie and my Dad butcher a sheep with Mom’s help in preparing the meats. We kids would always stand around to watch the head being cut off and…

OK, I won’t go there. But as kids, we didn’t think of it a gory or sadistic. It was food, and it was delicious!  The meal was cooked over an open fire, with homemade frybread, tortillas, blue corn meal mush, and I won’t mention the blood pudding.  Mmm, mmm, mmmm (getting VERY hungry now!).

Now that I’m older, I recognize the importance of tradition. Maybe not so much a Navajo tradition, but to me a tradition of traveling back home to Parker/Poston from Utah (where we lived for a while).  I would pack up my kids (as my parents used to do) and travel back to Arizona through 3 states to make it back for Mom and Dad’s turkey. Each year, these family gatherings began to have several new faces as nieces and nephews would get together, some meeting for the first time.

Sometimes Dad would cook the Thanksgiving (or Christmas) turkey beneath the ground, staying up all night to check on the fire.  I could hear him wandering around early in the morning, doors opening and closing. The turkey was always cooked to perfection.

After my father’s passing, I decided to try that. Once.  Both my mother and my kids tried to remember how he prepared the turkey with all the wrappings, digging the hole, and getting plenty of firewood, etc.  My attempt turned out OK, but just not the same as Dad’s.  That was one of the times I wish I would have paid more attention when I was younger.  We would always try to help Mom with all the food preparations, but we could never match her frybread.  She was a true Frybread Queen.  Her creation was a fluffy golden brown delicacy…sigh!

Unfortunately, I never paid attention then either.

So now our tradition, as I think most of my brothers and sisters do, is a family gathering for Thanksgiving/Christmas as well as most holidays when possible. We do our best to meet at the home of whoever volunteers to play host and we’ll do potluck style dinners. Cook your best, and bring it over!

I’m sad to say, mutton is not on the menu much anymore. That’s a rare luxury.

So, this Thanksgiving, we’ll do our “tradition”. We’ll pack up the car with kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, and whoever else, then get on the road to the Thanksgiving Family Dinner. Wherever that may be.

Diane Mitchell is a Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) member who now lives in a Phoenix suburb.


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Millennials: El Americano Nuevo has arrived

I just came across this excellent article in the Huff Post by Jose Tillan, GM/Executive VP at Tr3s: MTV Musica y Mas, and had to share it.

Hispanic Millennials

I was especially drawn to its provocative title, The Death of The Hispanic Adult Demo as We Know It. Plus, a friend shared it with me.

I like the fact that it challenges our thinking about conventional Latino demographics. We always hear about Latinos being a younger demographic and how by mid-century we will be in the majority.

So why do so many marketers and research people seem to over-focus on adults? Especially mom (la jefa)? Traditionally, this has been right on but by ignoring Millennials, are you insinuating that they’re kids and don’t really matter? Are you saying they’re a bunch of mama’s boys/girls?

Or is your thinking just behind where it should be?

Millennials are here. They tend to multi-task a heck of a lot better than the majority of us do. They’re more tolerant. They mix and match their worlds. They’re American youth.

Read the article and learn a little different insight. Let me know what you think about it.

Click here to read the article.


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Hispanic Heritage Month- It’s more than logoed trash cans & swag bags

We’re just past the halfway point of Hispanic Heritage Month.

I’m glad that our heritage is honored for the month. But it’s important to stop, reflect and ask questions of ourselves as to its meanings. Remember, it kicks off on El 16 de Septiembre with El Grito, based on Mexico’s revolt against Spain. It’s about liberation, celebration and heritage. It’s a time that we should be proudly celebrating and advancing our liberation as a people as well as individually.

Especially here in America.

We should be striving for excellence. We should be asking ourselves the tough questions, breaking out of the status quo as well as our comfort zones.

For corporations and brands reaching out to Latinos, what does it mean? Why do they do it? Some do it for little more than expressing an annually mandated gesture of tokenism.

How many ads do we see where employees stand in front of the building clapping, with a headline that states “We Applaud Hispanic Heritage Month”?

Puro pendejismo.

Excuse me, but I get the urge to puke when I see a Folklorico dancer in an ad or on a poster. This is fine if you’re promoting Folklorico. But otherwise…

Show some imagination.

Unfortunately, much of this crap is produced by a Latino agency (or freelancer) practicing mediocrity during this month. It’s thrown to them as a bone in the name of supplier diversity during this month. Is this genuine or is it more nonsense?

Is this the best we can do?

Unfortunately, many like the lap dog approach. You’ll hear “Don’t rock the boat, don’t make waves.” I’ve never been a radical or had militant tendencies, though I’ve known many through the years who were. Some still are. I think we need some of this ideology to be truly productive and move forward.

A friend once told me that corporations (and Govt. entities) reaching the US Latino market want tame Mexicans. “They want lap dogs. They don’t want their tunnel vision stereotypes upset”. I found this interesting. Sadly, there are always plenty of organizations ready to fill this niche.

In the meantime, many Latino groups are left to argue and bicker over logoed trash cans and swag bags filled with company pens and a variety of tchotchkes.

Is this the best we can do?  We expect no more?

A lot of marketing experts lay claim to knowing and reaching the Latino market very well. A lot do. And many don’t.

Being Latino doesn’t make you an expert.

Being non-Latino doesn’t exclude you.

I’m curious though, how well do you know us behind the doors and the windows? You may know our art (Diego, Frida, etc…yawn), music (La Bamba??), food and latest census numbers. But have you bothered to take the time and delve further into our backgrounds?

You may have read some very good and very valid marketing books, reports, etc. But have you read and understood the experiences of authors such as Luis Alberto Urrea and his writings about the US/Mexico border? Have you bothered to read and understand Stella Pope Duarte or Sandra Cisneros and their unique insights of life as Chicanas? How about Puerto Rican author Hector Varela?

Have you read anything from our perspective?

If not, I suggest you invest your time into some first hand experiences of these authors and numerous others. Reading about Latino demographics is good. It’s beneficial, but not enough. Especially, if you really want to know us.

And stop thinking that simply translating everything is the answer.

Hispanic Heritage Month is more than trite Folklorico images and beer signs.

It’s more than a propensity of logoed trash cans at events. And it’s certainly more than Latino organizations fighting over who gets the most trash cans.

We can do better.



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