Words according to Dakota, SHE II, and Raven Vanguard’s third member, also known as Sloth
Yesterday was Thanksgiving, a rather controversial holiday to many, almost as much as Columbus Day. To some of my friends, Thanksgiving is a day of mourning and remembrance. Native Americans across this nation have spoken out about genocide, the white-washing of Native history, and the fact that many Americans are either incredibly unaware or choose to ignore the facts. (In truth, to many of the Indigenous People who live on this Continent, the characterization “Native American” is itself, derogatory and insulting.) That isn’t to say that I do not enjoy eating mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and deep-fried turkey. I am in fact, thankful for the loving people in my life. However, as a whole, we have to reflect upon the things we are teaching in classrooms, the fact that kids are being raised to believe the colonizers treated the Native nations and their people with respect, and the “Trail of Tears” was merely the people gifting the land and moving peacefully.
I cannot continually sit back and enjoy my holiday weekend, with the knowledge that not only are many of my friends partaking in The National Day of Mourning, but are also fearful of losing more land, safe drinking water, their self-conception, the right of self-determination, and their voice while pipelines violate their sacred acreage. The article, Thanksgiving: The National Day of Mourning by Allen Salway (http://www.papermag.com/thanksgiving-native-american-history-2620937254.html) in Paper magazine brings up a lot of topics that make privileged, white society uncomfortable.
We cannot teach the next generation that it is okay to wear headdresses or any traditional native clothing for that matter. We cannot raise them believing that the colonizers were civilized in comparison to a culture that respected the land, animals, built cities, were organized, peaceful, and far more spiritual, in-touch and intelligent, charting the stars, while many of our ancestors still thought the earth was flat. We cannot continue to push cultural appropriation in schools, while we are negligent in respecting those who have lost so much. “Natives don’t have to live on reservations though.” Well, that’s obvious, but would you want to move away from the land that is rightfully yours to land that subjects you to laws created by the people who slaughtered your ancestors? No. Probably not.
Again, I am not saying that I protest eating food, celebrating togetherness, or loving those around you. I am personally experiencing a period of great reflection. Am I doing enough to help others? And by others, I mean everyone. Am I standing up for what I believe in, truly? Showing privilege is saying that none of this affects you, choosing to be ignorant to issues happening under our noses because you don’t personally know anyone hurting from them.
One of my good friends lives in Oklahoma and is deeply rooted in his culture. He cherishes his traditional ceremonies and recently shared with me an essay he wrote for academia, documenting his spiritual journey on the day of the Yellow Corn Dance. It’s disappointing to me, knowing that there are public schools in white America that are having children thoughtlessly choose “Native Names,” when it is an honor to be blessed in the river, covered in war paint, and bestowed with one’s name by the Medicine Man. My friend’s recollection of this day, the day he was named Tse ah Mon’g or Hand of the Eagle, was so beautiful it brought me to tears. How can we be okay with mocking this, the culture they are holding on to, in the “spirit of Thanksgiving.” It’s disappointing to me that we are so clouded by what we have been raised to believe that we cannot see how that is crossing the line.
We need to be better. Reflect on the things we say. Correct our ignorant perspectives and recognize that the past of colonizers involved genocide, white savagery, stealing land and hurting the families and civilizations here before. We need to do better today to protect and care for those who are our neighbors. We can never take back the past. But we can sure as hell be more respectful, caring, and helpful in the future.