Yes, that’s right, I don’t want you to have a “happy” Thanksgiving. I want you (and me) to have a troubled- disturbed- thanksgiving. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for gratitude and calling to mind the blessings in our lives, and that is something we all should ado. So do that, but as you do, remember that there’s another narrative that surrounds this gluttonous holiday which we need to address, and which we need to condemn. It’s that narrative that tells the outright lie of pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, meeting and shaking hands with Native Americans who all then sit down and have a turkey dinner together. We know this isn’t true. We know that what actually happened is one of the biggest and most long lasting acts of imperial dominion and genocide the world has ever known. That’s what Thanksgiving is, and we need to let that in.
The American story, for which we “give thanks” tomorrow, is one surrounded by the kinds of acts that when another nation engages in them, we fight wars and cry for a regime change. Yet somehow we still live in whispers of this false narrative of pilgrims and natives peacefully sitting down to dinner together. We dress our white preschool kids up in offensive native attire and put on thanksgiving pageants in our schools, we run 5Ks and put head dresses on cartoon turkey characters on the t-shirt, and we thank God for the freedom we have in this great country- a freedom we stole. A freedom that came at the cost of nations which we plundered, raped, and destroyed. So have a troubled Thanksgiving.
When it comes to what we now know as the Standing Rock Sioux, we came in, we took their land, we gave some of it back, then we took some back again. The land we’ve taken, which they hold as sacred, we’ve exploited over and over again. Today a massive black snake known as an oil pipeline is being laid right through that land we took, gave back, and took again, and the Standing Rock Sioux have had enough. And so have I. So should we all. It doesn’t matter what permits they have or don’t have. It doesn’t matter whether the land the pipeline is going through is technically the Standing Rock reservation or not. It doesn’t matter that water protectors may be “trespassing”. Trespassing? Are you kidding me? Our whole nation, this “greatest nation in the world”, was founded on trespassing- and that’s putting it nicely. This is an “enough is enough” moment. It’s time for this US Government to just once- just once- side with Native Peoples in a meaningful way. In a way that costs us something. But it’s not happening. Peaceful water protectors are alone, being attacked by law enforcement, and we don’t care. Why? Because we are “one nation under God” and that god’s name is Oil. That is who we bow to, serve and worship. So have a troubled Thanksgiving.
So, yes, I want you and me to have a troubled Thanksgiving, because while we sit down to turkey, mashed potatoes, “green stuff”, wine, and football, native peoples are still fighting for their (and our) well being. While we pull out the fine china and pretend we like each other, thousands of people, and more nations than have ever gathered before in history, camp out in the cold and snow on the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota trying to do everything they can to stop an oil pipeline from tunneling underneath the river that gives the people of Standing Rock life. And, quite honestly, gives all of us life. So as we fill ourselves on massive amounts of food and drink, have a troubled Thanksgiving.
As the Standing Rock people and their allies do what they can to stop it, law enforcement officers have proven to stop at nothing to stop them. Water cannons in freezing temperatures, concussion grenades, and rubber bullets have been launched on water protectors, severely injury many. Just two years ago President Obama (who, contrary to popular belief is still the President) stood on the Standing Rock reservation and pledged to stand with native peoples. Today, he’s got his head buried in the sand, proving that 500+ years later, this nation- the “land of the free and the home of the brave”- doesn’t care about native peoples. After all that we’ve learned, we still dress up our kids in head dresses on Thanksgiving, and we still move into native land to exploit it for our own economic benefit. We are still, right now, today, this Thanksgiving, taking their land and ignoring their cries as we were 500 years ago. So have a troubled Thanksgiving.
An oil pipeline running through sacred ground that we stole and tunneling underneath sacred and life giving water, combined with a militarized police force, and capped with a liberal president bailing on his promises with his head in the sand exposes that 500 years later this country, the United States of America, the “city on a hill”, is still an imperial oppressor, who views indigenous people as subhuman savages that need to be destroyed so that we can “be free”. This is a reality we need to let in and confess. This should be a national day of repentance, not a celebration. So have a troubled Thanksgiving.
This image (also above) is the most accurate modern day reenactment of the original Thanksgiving you’ll see… except that it’s not a reenactment. It’s real. It’s happening. It’s now. So as you sit down to dinner tomorrow, as you doze off on the couch watching football, as you argue with your family about the election, remember the people of Standing Rock- that is, “Real America”- and the thousands of water protectors gathered there. Remember that the turkey you’re eating comes in memory of a slaughter and genocide of native peoples that is still happening today. And remember that their plight isn’t even really about “their land”. It’s about our land. Everybody’s land. It’s about protecting this earth for generations to come. The Standing Rock Sioux are our teachers in this, but we are treating them as enemies.
So… have a troubled Thanksgiving. May your soul be in a state of unrest. May your heart cry tears of sorrow with every beat. May your mind be distracted by the truth. May your body be built by a riot in your bones. Have a troubled Thanksgiving, friends.