I continue to pray, think and write about the opportunities the upcoming holiday known as Thanksgiving offers to bring attention to Native history, beliefs and practices. I believe our future depends on turning away from an economy and society based upon fossil fuels. Indigenous spiritual and environmental ways are how we might be able to do that. That is why I hope you might care. I might not have been clear before, but this is what I mean when I say “I hope you will help with decolonizing.”
Learning about native ways to treat Mother Earth and each other as sacred is the only way I see we might address the environmental collapse we are rapidly moving into.
The following outlines my own spiritual journey, that led me to search for opportunities to get to know native people and learn more about Indigenous cultures.
I’ve had a life long concern about the damage we have been doing to Mother Earth. In my mid 20’s I was led to give up owning a personal automobile. Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to convince anyone else to do the same. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t change people’s behaviors, but could make no progress in changing people’s attitudes to stop using resources faster than they could be replenished. And stop spewing vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the air.
More or less giving up on the White, dominant culture I was living in, I shifted my attention to those who have lived, and continue to live with what I call environmental integrity. That of course would be Indigenous peoples. The problem was figuring out how I could make connections with native people. As I wrote in The Black Snake it was in the struggle to protect water that I was finally able to begin to make connections with some native people.
I’ve been working on the following diagram to try to express this. White culture is oriented toward fossil fuel energy, which has led to the current, deepening environmental chaos. Our only hope is to stop using fossil fuels. Indigenous peoples can teach us how.
What you can do is help those you know become more aware of why we need to find ways to learn from Native peoples. Survival is one reason I hope you will consider how you might engage those you gather with around the Thanksgiving/Truthsgiving holiday. Truthsgiving is a term my friend Christine Nobiss came up with. Using Truthsgiving instead of Thanksgiving is one way to start conversations.
It’s past time to honor the Indigenous resistance, tell our story as it really happened, and undo romanticized notions of the holiday that have long suppressed our perspective. As an Indigenous decolonizer, I call this time of year the Season of Resistance. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I ask you to please take the time to educate your peers about Thanksgiving’s real history; to support Native people as they resist the narrative of the holiday; and to organize or host alternatives to this holiday.Thanksgiving Promotes Whitewashed History, So I Organized Truthsgiving Instead by Christine Nobiss, Bustle, Nov 16, 2018.
An essential part of decolonizing Thanksgiving is to start educating our children with the authentic history of this country. A book that re-examines basic “truths” about Thanksgiving in an educational context is Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years. Considering that much of the Thanksgiving mythology is based on sharing food, it is ideal to discuss the importance of Indigenous first foods or food sovereignty with our children as well. The book Four Seasons of Corn: A Winnebago Tradition discusses the traditional process of growing and harvesting corn, de-commercializing what we eat, and promoting culturally appropriate foods and agricultural systems of North America. Decolonizing Thanksgiving: A Toolkit for Combatting Racism in Schools is a quick read where more resources are listed; it even has sample letters that can be sent to your children’s school concerning problematic Thanksgiving activities.
If your Thanksgiving holiday involves sharing what you’re thankful for, or reflecting on those who couldn’t be with you, spend some time acknowledging the people who suffered thanks to European settlement that the Thanksgiving myth venerates. It’s possible to observe the holiday in a spirit of gratefulness, but don’t ignore the very real pain of the indigenous people who were here before any other Americans. Whether it’s a prayer or a moment of silence, add a moment of reflection to your holiday to remember the lives lost because of colonization.How To Observe Thanksgiving While Acknowledging The Holiday’s Messed Up History by AYANA LAGE, Bustle, Nov 15, 2017
“A moment of reflection” could include appreciating the history of those who were connected to the land we are on now. Land acknowledgement statements, like the following for Iowa, can be used to make people aware of who was on the land where they are gathering.
Iowa Land Acknowledgement Statement
We begin by acknowledging that the Land between Two Rivers, where we sit and stand today, has been the traditional homeland for many independent nations. These include the Ioway and the Otoe, who were here since before recorded time. The Omaha and the Ponca were here, moving to new lands before white settlers arrived. The Pawnee used this land for hunting grounds. The Sioux, Sauk and Meskwaki were here long before European settlers came. Members of many different Indigenous nations have lived on these plains. Let us remember that we occupy their homeland and that this land was taken by force. Today, only the Meskwaki Nation, the Red Earth People, maintain their sovereignty on their land in the state of Iowa. They persevered and refused to be dispossessed of their home. Place names all over our state recognize famous Meskwaki chiefs of the 1800s like Poweshiek, Wapello, Appanoose, and Taiomah or Tama. We honor the Meskwaki Nation for their courage, and for maintaining their language, culture and spirituality. May our time together bring respectful new openings for right relationship to grow.
There are several resources to help with this decolonizing:
- Seeding Sovereignty https://seedingsovereignty.org/
- Friends Peace Teams. Toward Right Relationships with Native Peoples https://friendspeaceteams.org/trr/
- Bold Iowa http://boldiowa.com/
- Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement http://iowacci.org/
- Decolonizing Quakers https://www.decolonizingquakers.org/
Environmental collapse is very rapidly progressing, which is why I hope you will take advantage of this Truthsgiving holiday to inform and inspire those you love and gather with.