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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Why I Am Not Thankful for Thanksgiving in 2014 by CFT

THIS IS OUR LAND. There is NO OTHER PLACE in the ENTIRE WORLD where our story is told even remotely accurately.  There is no place where leaders across the country are of indigenous decent, where our artists, teachers, politicians, lawyers, CEO's, etc. are found easily and everywhere. If we (in the United States) don't tell the Native American story, then it doesn't happen. Who and where else would it be told? There are many research studies that show we are only seen as a stereotype (or dead) and that other people tell OUR stories (and that is the preferred way for the larger society to hear it - not from our own voices). That makes us, as Native Nations, uniquely different than any other group in our own lands.

I can go to Germany, my kids can go to Ireland or Finland, etc. to see a fairly accurate representation of that cultural heritage with folks in power reflective of the ethnicity participating in a broad range of occupations at that - stereotypes or not. That cannot be said for Native Americans and is why it is essential that my allies work with me to tell the Native story - there is no other place where it is told.  It is the absence of images, stories, and truths juxtaposed next to stereotypes that make the impact of those assumptions so damaging - there is nothing to counter them!

I fast and don't "celebrate" Thanksgiving.  There is only a miniscule part of our story that is ever told and almost always in a stereotypical, incorrect, or offensive way, denying the genocide of people and culture.  The flip side is that folks who have their stories told and their holidays off, have very little awareness of their privilege in having that (and, frankly, want more! like a half day before a holiday).  Folks want to hold on to oppressive "traditions" and blame the victims for complaining, or not educating them about alternatives, when it is really their work to undo what has been done, given that they, as a whole, have way more power than the oppressed group. 

I don't think any teacher in the States has ever had to leave lesson plans on Thanksgiving or Christmas, but I do for every Solstice and Equinox when I take those observances as "personal days."  How many people have to take Christmas as a "personal day"?   I also can not send my children anywhere (no country, no school, no house of worship, no embassy, etc.) to learn their Arawak culture, history, or language. In addition, their history and culture is rarely told in movies, books, school, etc., but the person who committed a genocide has a holiday named after him (Columbus).  If you can, do, or could educate your children about their own ethnic heritage then you have power and privilege (and probably don't even notice that you do).

I can't think of anything similar to any other group, certainly not in the history of the United States, than what has happened to the Native Nations. 

~ Claudia A. Fox Tree