I have fond memories of spending childhood Thanksgivings with my Slovak grandmother in Eastern Pennsylvania. Never a traditional meal, we ate city chicken and Serviettenknödel (a Bohemian dish not dissimilar to traditional dressing). The stories I heard around the dinner table were of the hardships of my immigrant family coming to the U.S. and, despite facing immense adversity, surviving and thriving due to honest hard work. Despite learning about the myths surrounding Thanksgiving and teaching my high school students about Indigenous genocides, it’s been only recently that I began to connect these stories to the larger narrative of U.S. settler colonialism. Maybe it’s because my holiday traditions seemed so rooted in my family’s immigrant past and stories of hardships and survival, which seemed so removed from the myths of Native and European encounters. Maybe it’s a reluctance to connect my happy childhood memories and traditions to ideas of genocide.
Brieanna was born and raised in northern Minnesota, and received her B.A. in Sociology from Augsburg College in 2011. After completing her M.A. in Sociology from Queen’s University in Northern Ireland, she served in AmeriCorps as a Promise Fellow, taught sociology at a community college in Oregon, and was the Family Liaison at an Ojibwe culture and language school last year. With broad interests in mass violence, collective memory, and settler colonialism, she returned to Minneapolis to pursue her Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Minnesota.
Brieanna writes for the CHGS blog on topics and events related to both American Indians broadly, and the Dakota and Ojibwe specifically. She is currently involved in a team project with Alejandro Baer examining over a century of local and national newspaper articles and their representations of the Dakota War of 1862; a timely undertaking, given the push toward revitalizing Fort Snelling and decisions to remove controversial art at the State Capitol. In addition, she is working on a side project with two other graduate students titled, “Imagining a “Final Solution” to “Never Again”: Experiencing Empathy through Digital and Non-Digital Games”.