Nov 25, 2013 - Boycott Black Friday in the Name of Indigenous Pride, By renee holt
Greetings from Nimiipuu territory, Indian country! The countdown to the holidays has begun- shopping and food are celebrated this time of year. Yep, it’s that time of the year when we get to see all the holiday sales. Sunday papers throughout the country will be filled with news and ads for sales on Thanksgiving meal fixings, #BlackFriday, and the countdown to Christmas.
It’s also a time when families, parents, and individuals who are not as fortunate find themselves wishing they could win the lottery. Holidays on the Rez seem to have become what the rest of the U.S. has consumed itself with. The reality is that the less financially fortunate feel societal pressures to consume and buy thanks to sales and advertisements from mainstream society. Rates of depression increase. Family stress related to providing basic necessities such as food on the table, let alone gifts to children and loved ones, can become overwhelming.
As I reminisce about my childhood around the holidays, I remember a couple where we went to my late Grandmas. I don’t believe there was a tree and I don’t recall singing any holiday jingles, nor was there any baking of gingerbread and we certainly didn’t have eggnog. Instead, I recall the fun my cousins and I had as we played all weekend, or however long it is we stayed at my Gram’s. See; as a kid, I had no recollection of time, yet I have a treasure of memories. I don’t recall the gifts I received so much as I do the laughter, sometimes tears, and fighting with cousins. For the most part, I remember jumping off rocks, trekking to the sand dunes, having the Billy Goat chase us around the corral, and Gram yelling at us for disturbing the peace. But I digress.
As a mother and one of 8 children in my family, I work just like any other relative I know out in Indian country. There is nothing unique or different about my story. If anything, I’m here to talk story and reminisce a bit and ask, what does Holiday spirit mean to Indian country if we have become consumed with materialism aka consumer capitalism? Wherever readers are in Indian country for the holidays, whether for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I’m certain mainstream media will advertise toys, clothing, video games, electronics, and even cars with the audacity that assumes everyone who is watching will purchase those items. It is that kind of consumer capitalism advertising that has erased what I believe is the true meaning of the holiday spirit.
Over the years, holidays have taught me to appreciate the very things I used to take for granted. While in an unaware state, I too had become consumed with mainstream culture. #BlackFriday has consumed Indian country via local Walmarts to the point that it drives some of our youth to snub the “cheap” and prefer the “dope” N7’s or other name brands not all parents can afford. The value and meaning behind who we are as Indigenous people is deeper than what the holidays have become, yet, somehow it seems Nike’s philosophy has replaced our youths desire to buy moccasins first.
I’m thinking about how #BlackFriday has poisoned our reservations communities and when I see a TV commercial advertising the many sales, I think of my extended family who sew, bead, can salmon, weave, and sell baked foods to make ends meet. What we, here in #Nimiipuu country call “soyapo” or non-Indian culture, has consumed the true meaning behind what the holidays are and in my opinion #BlackFriday overshadows the local Indigenous economy.
Today, I’m aware. I realize the holidays can be difficult for some families on the Rez. In an ideal Rez community, instead of going for broke buying the latest N7’s, I’d love to see all our communities gift/receive moccasins in preparation for #RocYourMoc’s 2014. N7’s cost just as much, if not more, and ideally, whether in ceremony or at pow wow’s (if your culture participates), we’d all be ready for 2014 and display our cultural pride. Perfect, right? However, that is an ideal imagined Rez community and I’m aware not every family can afford moccasins or cultural items, let alone pay bills, feed the family, and find enough money to purchase gifts, and most definitely N7’s.
As I shared earlier, I am one of 8 children, and my dad is one of 9. I come from one of the largest extended families on my Rez and we never get to spend holidays the way we’d like by spending money on every relative. Instead, we spend time together and do what we can with what we have.
As our Native youth see a material culture become more pronounced from mainstream media advertising, I don’t believe our youth accept the financial struggle as theirs until the holidays. All the advertising hype on TV is a reminder when they see a multitude of commercials with toys and all the goodies they can have IF only their family has the money to buy it. It saddens me at times to think our country is wrought with consumerism. Unemployment is highest on the Rez.
While the U.S. has been in a recession, according to economists, we as Indigenous people have not felt the brunt of it because our reservation communities have been in a recession since reservations were established. Food rations, alcohol, and residential boarding schools disrupted our ways to the point that we forget when the Great Depression occurred, our ancestors in that time of U.S. history, did not feel it because our men were out hunting and fishing and women were canning foods, gathering berries, and roots when the seasons permitted, just as their ancestors did, to live.
We still have that same spirit in us. Could we dare to think differently of Black Friday? Could we not buy so many sales items and spend more among our own communities and bring back our true culture? Can we begin preparing for 2014 RockYourMocs? I encourage you to boycott Black Friday in the name of Indigenous pride, and if you do shop, patron Native businesses.
renee holt is Dine from the With the Rock or Sleeping Rock clan and a citizen of the Nez Perce Nation. Mother, daughter, sister, friend, niece and granddaughter, she is a 5th year doctoral student at Washington State University in the College of Education, Cultural Studies and Social Thought program in the Department of Teaching & Learning. A guest writer for the Last Real Indians.com, renee is also an activist scholar on issues related to the social injustices relative to Indigenous education and language advocacy. She can be found tweeting at https://twitter.com/Indigeneesta