‘THANKSGIVING’ FOR THE INDIANS OF TODAY?
As we assemble to celebrate a long standing traditional American holiday we do well to look at the beginnings and where we are today. The holiday was instituted to celebrate the survival of our immigrant Pilgrims from a devastating winter and starvation. The knowledge of how to survive in what would become New England was given to them by the native Americans who introduced them to the ‘three sisters’ of their agriculture, corn, beans, and squash. When the harvest came in they joined together to celebrate and share games. Yet all too soon the battles for territory would lead to heinous attacks and slaughters by both factions and to the continual wars and the eventual genocide of First nations peoples.
Throughout the unfolding of the history of modern America there would be many inspiring lives lived by admirable individuals, sacrificing, compassionate, noble individuals from all the cultures involved in our nation’s creation, (thank God), and that can give us hope for resolution now.
But the issues have always been essentially the same - the claims of the settlers to land, buffalo, gold and now oil, anything that can be maniupulated and taken to enrich ruthless opportunists. America has the pathetic and shameful history of 100% violations of every treaty made with native peoples, including the one now in dispute. Anytime it was perceived the natives were on land where a resource was desired a take over has arisen. Today we call it eminent domain and lands are now being seized( now from all citizens) for corporate profit and power and not necessarily for the common good of the people as originally intended.
Native Americans live with the poverty and addiction issues common to oppressed people. But there are many among them who hear the noble call of a native American ancestry, a call of the highest moral capacities - to love and care for the earth for the sake of the future of all to come, and to live in harmony with all creatures. Those brave, sacrificing souls, from all the native tribes in the country, are now joined together for the first time at Standing Rock. And they are standing up. Standing up for the Mother Earth against further assault. Standing up for water. Standing up for life. Standing against the savage energy of corporations, banks and wealthy individuals to sieze profit from a retrograde energy of dirty oil regardless of who is harmed. These are entities ruthless enough to maim and even bring about the murder of unarmed peaceful, praying people to gain profit - How can any of us just stand by and ignore such a violation of basic human rights in the name of greed?
As millions gather for Thanksgiving the day this year is marred by the fear driven ‘civil war’ splitting the country over politics -( An old tactic of divide and conquer known to despots for centuries is taking place). We are split, divided and deeply compromised. But we cannot afford to be compromised in our moral conscience! As hundreds of peaceful, prayerful indigenous peoples from all over the nation and the world are assembling to face head on the destructive oil pipe line in North Dakota they are being shot, tear gassed, pepper sprayed, frozen with water cannons, fire bombs, grenades, torturous ear splitting war machines by our militarized police and National Guard. Over 300 have been hospitaliized. Journalists whose duty it is to report are being arrested. This is a wake up call to everyone.
Where do we stand and how to we stand.? Are we willing to speak up, to give monetary support, to go to jail? Can we really stand by and watch these good people, standing on sacred ancestral lands, (the equilvilent of churches and cemetaries) and watch the young, old, the women and children along with all the others, attacked with military assaults with intent to harm or even cause murder in the name of protecting corporate profit? - Can we likeThoreau take a stand as he did when he went to jail for a night to protest his US taxes being used to promote slavery? Henry Thoreau, who wrote his magficient treatise on Civil Disobedence from that experience, words that reverberated through out the world and inspired the deeds of Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Cesar Chavez - who all led civil rights movements and faced the powers of wealth and might with non violent resistence and the stunning moral high road of discipline, human dignity and human rights?
I would say we cannot as a country endure if we add even more heinous acts to our all ready compromised past by once again persecuting our First Nations people. Nor can we continue to perpetuate slavery by keeping the profit making jails filled up (they want guaranteed occupancy) with black Americans picked up for petty non violent crime. This country was won through the extermination of the natives, and built up industrially on the backs of slaves and poor immigrants. We need to own these facts and make collective reoonciliation by standing up to all the travesties taking place now. We need to face up, stand up, own up, and power up with all compassionate caring, active individuals everywhere and make ourselves heard in all ways for the world we need and want to live in.
As Chief Phil Lane puts it, ‘there is unlimited spiritual power behind the truth of the movement gathering at Standing Rock for it fulfilling sacred prophecy.” He vows to, “Stand before the Creator with full responsibiity for my words and Actions.” Let us this Thanksgiving, give thanks that the affairs of our time are taking place to awaken us to the deeper values of what we really stand for as human beings and pray for the guts, the insight, and energy to do whatever is in our spiritually inspired power for the actions to make a difference.
Nancy Jewel Poer, November, 2016