Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giving thanks to Native Americans on Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving rolls around, I have to remind myself not to be curmudgeonly and dwell on the fact that the story about the Indians and the Pilgrims we learned in school is at best a half-truth, a feel-good tale masking what was to become a genocidal attack. Those who want to know how many Native people feel about Thanksgiving can go to http://laquaker.blogspot.com/2010/11/whats-wrong-with-thanksgiving.html And if you are interested in a Quaker perspective on this subject, you might check out “William Penn and the Indians” (See http://laquaker.blogspot.com/2010/11/william-penn-and-indians.html).

This year I'd like to sound a positive note and express appreciation for what the Original Inhabitants of Turtle Island have given to European Americans and to the world. Not only the land (which we stole) but much, much more.

Having just spent a week in DC, I'd like to begin by thanking the Iroquois Nation for inspiring our form of government—that peculiar mix of states rights and national sovereignty. When I first read Jack Weatherford's book Indian Givers and learned that Benjamin Franklin and other founders of our country regarded the seven tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy as a model for the thirteen colonies becoming a United States of America, I was dumbfounded, and a little skeptical. Why hadn't anyone taught me this in high school? But as I did research, I began to see this has become a widely accepted view among modern historians. And even the Capitol building testifies to our indebtedness to Native people: on the top of the dome is an Indian warrior in feathered regalia!

I'm grateful that the Friends Committee on National Legislation carries on a longstanding Quaker concern for the rights of Indians. If you want to be an advocate for modern Native Americans, you can find out how to do so at http://fcnl.org/issues/nativeam/

As we sit down to our Thankgiving meal, it is fitting to offer thanks not only to the Creator, but to those who first cultivated some of our favorite foods.

Green beans
Kidney beans
Lima beans
Wild rice
Maple syrup
Sweet potato

If you include  the foods of Hawaians, Pacific Islanders, and other indigenous people, the list of yummies grows even longer.

In additions to Native foods and herbal medicines (see http://www.manataka.org/page169.html), I am grateful to Indian writers and artists who carry on the spiritual and cultural traditions of their people. (Joseph Bruchac, George Clutesi, Scott Momaday, Leslie Silko, Alfonso Ortiz, etc.)  And I am grateful for the American Indian museum in Washington, DC, a fascinating place that testifies that the First People of this land have a vibrant and living culture, and much to teach us about how to live in harmony with nature.

Let me close with some questions to reflect on and ponder:
  • What have you learned from Indians that is important to you?
  • What gift from Native Americans makes you feel most grateful?
  • Have you ever expressed your gratitude to a Native American or indigenous person? If not, how might you do so?

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful tribute and wake- up call to remembrance. Wonderful resources and learning curriculum in your article. I am grateful for all of those who have gone before me, as they/we have all sacrificed something even if we didn't know what it was at the time for the human condition. Happy Day of Gratitude and Thanks.