"Food" for thought on THANKSGIVING

  1. Have a great day everyone.


    Thanksgiving: A Native American View

    For a Native American, the story of Thanksgiving is not a very happy one. But a member of the Dineh Nation and the Yankton Dakota Sioux finds occasion for hope. An AlterNet Thanksgiving classic.

    I celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving.

    This may surprise those people who wonder what Native Americans think of this official U.S. celebration of the survival of early arrivals in a European invasion that culminated in the death of 10 to 30 million native people.

    Thanksgiving to me has never been about Pilgrims. When I was six, my mother, a woman of the Dineh nation, told my sister and me not to sing "Land of the Pilgrim's pride" in "America the Beautiful." Our people, she said, had been here much longer and taken much better care of the land. We were to sing "Land of the Indian's pride" instead.

    I was proud to sing the new lyrics in school, but I sang softly. It was enough for me to know the difference. At six, I felt I had learned something very important. As a child of a Native American family, you are part of a very select group of survivors, and I learned that my family possessed some "inside" knowledge of what really happened when those poor, tired masses came to our homes.

    When the Pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock, they were poor and hungry -- half of them died within a few months from disease and hunger. When Squanto, a Wampanoag man, found them, they were in a pitiful state. He spoke English, having traveled to Europe, and took pity on them. Their English crops had failed. The native people fed them through the winter and taught them how to grow their food.

    These were not merely "friendly Indians." They had already experienced European slave traders raiding their villages for a hundred years or so, and they were wary -- but it was their way to give freely to those who had nothing. Among many of our peoples, showing that you can give without holding back is the way to earn respect. Among the Dakota, my father's people, they say, when asked to give, "Are we not Dakota and alive?" It was believed that by giving there would be enough for all -- the exact opposite of the system we live in now, which is based on selling, not giving.

    To the Pilgrims, and most English and European peoples, the Wampanoags were heathens, and of the Devil. They saw Squanto not as an equal but as an instrument of their God to help his chosen people, themselves.

    Since that initial sharing, Native American food has spread around the world. Nearly 70 percent of all crops grown today were originally cultivated by Native American peoples. I sometimes wonder what they ate in Europe before they met us. Spaghetti without tomatoes? Meat and potatoes without potatoes? And at the "first Thanksgiving" the Wampanoags provided most of the food -- and signed a treaty granting Pilgrims the right to the land at Plymouth, the real reason for the first Thanksgiving.

    What did the Europeans give in return? Within 20 years European disease and treachery had decimated the Wampanoags. Most diseases then came from animals that Europeans had domesticated. Cowpox from cows led to smallpox, one of the great killers of our people, spread through gifts of blankets used by infected Europeans. Some estimate that diseases accounted for a death toll reaching 90 percent in some Native American communities. By 1623, Mather the elder, a Pilgrim leader, was giving thanks to his God for destroying the heathen savages to make way "for a better growth," meaning his people.

    In stories told by the Dakota people, an evil person always keeps his or her heart in a secret place separate from the body. The hero must find that secret place and destroy the heart in order to stop the evil.

    I see, in the "First Thanksgiving" story, a hidden Pilgrim heart. The story of that heart is the real tale than needs to be told. What did it hold? Bigotry, hatred, greed, self-righteousness? We have seen the evil that it caused in the 350 years since. Genocide, environmental devastation, poverty, world wars, racism.

    Where is the hero who will destroy that heart of evil? I believe it must be each of us. Indeed, when I give thanks this Thursday and I cook my native food, I will be thinking of this hidden heart and how my ancestors survived the evil it caused.

    Because if we can survive, with our ability to share and to give intact, then the evil and the good will that met that Thanksgiving day in the land of the Wampanoag will have come full circle.

    And the healing can begin.

    Jacqueline Keeler is a member of the Dineh Nation and the Yankton Dakota Sioux. Her work has appeared in Winds of Change, an American Indian journal.
  2. Excellent article Roo!

    The Dineh is also known as the Navajo Nation, a tribe I am proudly a member of. We currently hold the largest amount of land covering four states and have many, many programs for our young, as well as businesses that substain entire families. The Navajo have overcome every bit of government genocide (including but not limited to the wholesale slaughter of herds of sheep, the Navajo Churro) to become one of the largest and most prolific people who do NOT have casinos in the Nation. (Unless this has changed recently, last time I was on the Rez the Navajo had voted it down. They get enough tourists without the problems brought on by casinos.)

    Today's society has turned many an Indian (and yes, I prefer American Indian and not the more "politically correct" Native American, everyone born in America is a Native American!) into what we call "Apple". Red on the outside and white on the inside. But secretely we still wish the little bit of "savage" would be allowed to peek through, especially when we have been injured by another. White laws give the perp too many rights.
  3. That is one powerful article. And thanks for the additional info, Speedy. I would have thought "Native American" would be preferred. Not because it is politically correct, but because the Indians were the true natives of America, and that this (Native American) would have signified that. Thanks for the education.
  4. Thanks so much for this. I think it is really powerful.

  5. While "Native American" is politically correct, just like "African-American" is PC for Blacks, very seldom do the peoples of these races refer to themselves as such. I remember when the whole thing about "Native American" came out... my mother would scoff and say, "ANYONE born on US soil is a Native American! What the hell are they trying to prove?" (Momma was something else... very outspoken!) The Navajo weighed in with wanting to be called "Dine`" (aka Dineh) as this is Navajo for "The People". (Most tribes original names for themselves does mean "The People".) Then they decided on "First Americans" for awhile, since the arguement of anyone being born on AMerican soil is a "Native American", but again, it's encumbering. American Indians divide themselves by tribe, although children are often described by both parents affiliations, such as "Mohawk-Fox" or "Navajo-Apache", but anyone not of Blood is refered to as White or, in the case of African-Americans (I don't know what my sisters of color prefer here) Black. People of Asian descent are refered to as "Far Eastern" or "Light Ones" or "Chinamen" in reference to the color. It's not racist in our minds, it's direct translations of native tongues, since as a people, we were taught there are only four colors. (Look at any well-made Medicine Wheel, you'll see four colors, Black, White, Red and Yellow. This is called "The Four Colors Of Man", and is the highest respect of the People.

    The Navajo and several other tribes finally said enough is enough, and American Indian was preferred. It really doesn't bother any of us, if anything, asking what "tribe" one is from is considered rude unless you know the person well enough to understand just some things are not said. It would be like asking a Black person if their grandmother was a slave. Preferably, you should ask what part of the US they are from, and let them say what peoples they are affiliated with.

    A wonderful magazine I can suggest is called "Native Peoples". It comes out once a month and speaks of everything under the Sun from jewelry (the most beautiful pieces on Earth are Native made) to actors to medicines to clothing, writing, etc. Truly if you want to know more about the Modern American Indians, and other indigenious peoples, this is the subscription to get.

    And by the way, not all of us are alcoholics, grunt in one syllable words, or beg on the side of the road. Family is always Number One, and rituals to show Mother Earth She is the most important thing above all is ingrained in our children from birth. Respect is of the utmost quality one can have, for ALL living things.

    Thanks for letting me explain the Peoples thoughts! Please give your money to the closest Indian Casino, it'll pay for someone's schooling. :smile: (I'm kidding!) Seriously, the monies made by Indian Casinos (which the Navajo do NOT have last I knew) goes right back into the tribe who runs it. It's a good thing.