“In effect, contentions over land usage and ownership have served to define the totality of US – Indian relationships from the first moment to the present day, shaping not only the historical flow of interactions between invader and invaded, but the nature of ongoing domination of native people in areas such as governance and jurisdiction, identification, recognition and education.”
– Ward Churchill from When Predator Came
While we gather with family and friends to give thanks lets remember what was taken. Let’s remember that there are long overdue debts that that have accrued for over half an eon. Let’s remember that there’s action yet to be taken to repair the damage done. Let’s temper the thanks of what we have with the remembrance of what was taken. Let’s remember that there is no thanks for taking.
The idea of setting aside a day to give thanks is a good one. The idea of gathering with relatives and friends over a meal to spend some time remembering what’s important in life is a beautiful sentiment. The idea of taking time to give thanks for that is no small matter. But the American mythology that was built for this holiday was designed to white wash the atrocities committed in the genocide of Native peoples. Don’t let that happen. Give thanks for what you have but don’t accept the mythology of Thanksgiving. Remember the taking that went on after that first Thanksgiving, the taking of lives, the taking of land, the taking of history, the taking of culture…
With the recent Occupation movement sweeping this nation it’s crucial to remember that the beginnings of the rampant greed and voracious bottomless appetite for profit over people began with the genocide of Native peoples. The roots of modern day capitalism are deeply planted in the genocide of Native peoples. Wall Street was called Wall Street because a wall was built to keep Native peoples out. Modern day capitalism was also built on enslaved Africans. It was enslaved Africans that built the wall on Wall Street. The first commodity traded, bought and sold on Wall Street was African slaves. So the beginnings of this holiday are not as pure as American mythology would have us believe.
Remembrance can be the beginning of resistance but only if we follow through with action to correct the past transgressions that have become the present transgressions that will inevitably become future transgressions. We can’t be held responsible for the past but we are responsible for the present. It’s our actions in the present, that can be used to make us accountable for the past, by virtue of having done nothing to change the affects of the past on the present and foreseeable future. If we do nothing to alter the affects of the Native peoples genocide that began hundreds of years ago and continues today in slightly different form, then we can be held accountable to a continuation of that genocide. In being responsible with the present we become responsible for the future and perhaps in some future Thanksgiving we’ll all be free of these past transgressions once and for all. That will be a Thanksgiving worthy of the ideal.