As Thanksgiving passes, I continued my tradition of avoiding celebration of genocide and decided to donate to the Sacred Stone Defense Fund instead. Amidst the fight for social justice and human equality, white versus black monopolizes the conversation to where we tend to erase the past and present condition of the true natives of our country. To put things into perspective, we are essentially arguing and fighting inside a house that doesn’t originally belong to us yet we ignore its original inhabitants. With “Turkey Day” recently behind us and protestors currently fighting for their rights with their lives against pipelines being built on sacred lands perhaps it should be examined in historical context the irony. It’s kind of unknowingly psychopathic to celebrate Thanksgiving due to the fact it was a celebration of the massacre of Pequot people yet somehow, we all (including POC) gather around the table in tradition. We cheer in glee and gather to “give thanks” in the name of being grateful for what we have. Meanwhile, Native Americans sigh, unable to stop the freight train of patriotism and hypocrisy.
“We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees.” – Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation
Our government has done dishonorable dealings with tribal governments to reduce the size of their reservations including the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation due to greed. Ironically, the seal on our very own dollar bill has an eagle seal taken from the Six-Nations Iroquois printed on the back. It just so happens that in these very lands, capitalists with corporate interests, pounce on opportunities to frack for gas and build pipelines. Not only have Native Americans been exterminated for control of tribal lands in the past but now they fight for the scraps they have been left as consolation. Deep fracking has plenty environmental risks such as exposure to toxic chemicals, water contamination, pipe bursts to even induced earthquakes such as the magnitude 5.6 earthquake in Oklahoma in September. Around 1.7 million Americans are without access to clean, running water and majority live in reservations while billionaires including the Koch brothers and even our President Elect hold stock in these fracking companies such as Dakota Access. The disregard for environmental concern is blatant when 90 billion gallons of toxic fracking wastewater gets dumped off the coast of California and plans to install pipes on the sea floor to transport dangerous gas, disrupting marine life in the process. This adds to climate change despite those who are still in denial of the effects of global warming. Our oceans are becoming toxic and as Earth’s natural air conditioner, if they become warmer, life in return suffers. To a people who have a deep relationship with nature and ecology, this is cultural suffocation as well as a continuation of genocide to feed a capitalist machine.
“Our land is everything to us… I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember that our grandfathers paid for it – with their lives.” – John Wooden Legs, Cheyenne
As we approach winter, thousands are protesting in frigid temps while facing tear gas, water hoses, rubber bullets, macing, snipers, beating, tasers and mass arrests in solidarity against the ugly nature of capitalism. This year alone, the Native American community were busy protesting cultural appropriation by retail stores like Urban Outfitters with their “Navajo hipster” panties as well as offensive Halloween costumes to “Indian” mascots for sports teams. Obama has made good on his word to 17 tribes in settlement over lands but has remained silent on the current situation in Dakota and it leaves little to the imagination of how much control capitalism has in politics. Little is mentioned on how Native Americans face the highest rate of police brutality of all racial groups, 1.9% of all police killings despite a population of 0.8% including the deaths of Native American activists like Rexdale W. Henry, Sarah Lee Circle Bear and Allen Locke. The Native people have shown indigenous solidarity to movements like Black Lives Matter and were present for the Million Man March and I personally haven’t forgotten. Although, only around 5% of Black population have “Indian in their family”, I feel that those of us who are waking up to our oppression should join in solidarity with our Native brothers and sisters because the parallels between Black and Brown cannot escape us and our silence implies our consent.
“Will we let ourselves be destroyed in our turn without a struggle, give up our homes, our country bequeathed to us by the Great Spirit, the graves of our dead and everything that is dear and sacred to us? I know you will cry with me, ‘Never! Never!” – Tecumseh Shawnee