Many years ago, I reclaimed Thanksgiving from it’s revisionist historical narrative of pilgrim and Indian, to simply being a harvest festival: I celebrate the abundance of the earth who provides for us always, and celebrate the family and community of being without which we could not exist.
Yet, that’s not an excuse to turn a blind eye to what really happened to the indigenous North American people- or paint over it with happy ‘grateful’ gloss. Use this holiday as a focusing tool. For a moment in time, I draw my attention to the damage done, and attempt to atone for ongoing injustices towards the native people, to apologize, and to support and amplify current native efforts toward a better life and revivification of culture.
In the past several months, in the context of the new book, Bending the Bow, I’ve read many different histories of the American Indian Movement, and many historical documents on AIM, e.g., Clyde Bellecourt’s autobiography Thunder Before the Storm and Pelletier’s own story, as well as scholarly works. The treatment of Native Americans under the colonial expansionists is more horrifying and unethical then anything I knew before or imagined. Until the 1970s, when the native civil rights movements effectively began, there was no coherent force in the native community for reclamation of identity and fighting back. If you were up in arms about Standing Rock, and haven’t yet, you might read one of these books also, to understand how the governments response there is an extension of treaty violations and abuse.
We are in the midst of a massive transformation away from the hierarchical ‘chain of being’ to the web of life. Women, children, animals, the earth and her ecosystems, historically at the bottom of the subjugating chain, along with marginalized culture, are making a new table at which everyone might sit, and eat, and govern and gather.
That is a Thanksgiving table I would want to sit at.
Happy harvest everyone.