Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

The Christmas Season in Indian Country

Celebrations, memorials, and gatherings during the winter holiday season


December 27, 2021

The introduction of Christianity to the original peoples of the Americas can be controversial in Native circles. Europeans brought Christianity to this half of the world and imposed it on Native communities, knowingly replacing existing spiritual beliefs with the beliefs taught in the Bible. Cruelty and brutality often accompanied the indoctrination of Native peoples. Yet it is also true that some tribes, families, and individuals accepted the Bible and Jesus’ teachings voluntarily.

Music played an important part in converting Native people, establishing their practice of worship, and teaching them how to celebrate the Christmas season. In many communities and homes, Christian customs are interwoven with Native culture as a means of expressing Christmas in a uniquely Native way

Many tribes begin their Christmas meal by putting out a feast plate or spirit dish for loved ones who passed away. As a special Christmas day of feasting a prayer is rendered and food offerings are placed outside of the home on a plate or in the sacred fire for relatives who are no longer with us. The respect is that you allow your remembrances—those who have passed—to eat first.

Alternatively, some Natives do not celebrate Christmas but use this seasonal opportunity to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Yet others in the Northern plains are honoring their relatives with a memorial horse ride called the Dakota 38 + 2. On December 26, 1862, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, in Dakota County, 38 Dakota men were hung all at once. It is recorded as the largest mass execution in U S. history and how some Natives in Mni Sota and the Dakotas observe this time of the year. Each December 10, riders set out to traverse the 330 miles between Lower Brule, South Dakota, and conclude on December 26 in Mankato, Minnesota.


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