Give Thanks for the Chance to Change

My intention on this day many call “Thanksgiving” is not to try to take the joy out of the happiness so many experience with this opportunity to spend time with loved ones.

But as I have been blessed to have spent time with Native Americans during the First Nation-Climate Unity March, and to have made new friends, it would be a betrayal to be silent about what I am learning about the history and continuing treatment of Native Americans in America. 

Just consider what Native American means, which is the people who had been living on Turtle Island (North America) for generations before the white man came. Or similarly First Nations in Canada. 

If Thanksgiving had really been about Native Americans helping white people learn how to live in a new land, where are those Native Americans now? 

Conservative estimates are the 100 million Native Americans were killed between 1600 and 1900. Other historians put the actual number closer to 300 million. It is impossible for me to even try to visualize such huge numbers.

It is no wonder Native Americans consider this a Day of Mourning.

It would be dishonest and a betrayal for me to continue to act as though “Thanksgiving” was a celebration of Native Americans and settler colonialists coming together for their common good. It would be a betrayal to not try to use one of the few occasions Native Americans are even thought about by Americans, without trying to call out this hypocrisy.

Because change can only begin by exposing the truth. Native Americans continue to be marginalized, oppressed, taken and killed. To perpetuate injustice not only harms victims, but also the oppressor.

We should celebrate that we can change.  That can only happen when we begin to learn the truth. Once you know the truth, it is difficult, but unfortunately possible, to not do something. It is a choice each person must make.

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1 Response to Give Thanks for the Chance to Change

  1. jakisling says:

    Comment from Liz Oppenheimer:

    “If Thanksgiving had really been about Native Americans helping white people learn how to live in a new land, where are those Native Americans now?”

    This question triggers another one for me:

    If Thanksgiving had really been about Native Anericans helping white people learn how to live in a new land, would we have such dire warnings of climate disruption? Would we be experiencing the extinction and endangerment of animals, insects, and their habitats? Would our corporations be exploiting human labor and backing extractive industries such as mining and fracking?

    To preserve as much of the dying Earth as possible, we must press ourselves, each other, our communities, and then our businesses and manufacturers to take ever larger steps to shift from wasteful consumerism/extractive capitalism to a culture of compassionate reciprocity and collective interdependence.

    Community-based and municipal recycling programs started decades ago but as a country (or community or faith tradition or ???) we haven’t generated enough linked Next Steps in-between recycling and prohibition of fossil fuel use. What would such a massive culture shift away from competitive, extractive industries toward a cooperative, regenerative society look like? What would it require in terms of a new narrative from local and national governing bodies; from mainstream media; from faith-based institutions; from business leaders and educators…?

    Wouldn’t we need a “surround-sound” of images, spoken-word, practices, and models of behavior that would inspire us to take the drastic measures we’d need? None of that will come from the US as we know it. And *that* is a very sobering thought…
    Liz, The Good Raised Up

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