The Turkey, Corn, Potatoes, Cranberries, Pumpkin are all Native American traditional foods. So give thanks for your family and remember the Native American familys that provided your meal.
Washington, DC - The House of Representatives
unanimously passed legislation introduced by Congressman Joe Baca
(D-Rialto), and supported by the National Indian Gaming Association
(NIGA) and 184 federally recognized tribes, to designate the Friday
after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day. The Native American
Heritage Day Bill, H.J. Res. 62, designates Friday, November 28, 2008,
as a day to pay tribute to Native Americans for their many contributions
to the United States.
Our View-Native Americans deserve thanks that some survived
The majority of the United States population will do the typical turkey and stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, football games on TV and family gathering-type of Thanksgiving this week.
Doting parents will “ooh” and “ahh” when little kindergarten Johnny and Suzie dress up as paper Pilgrims and pretend Squantos, while performing “authentic” re-enactments of the first Thanksgiving.
We keep adding layers of new traditions on top of old as time passes. Now, we stand in lines at malls the day after, waiting for Black Friday super bargains on Christmas presents.
The truth is, however, Thanksgiving is not the same feast of gratitude for most Native American peoples as it is for mainstream America. For many American Indian nations, it is a harsh slap in the face to see an entire country literally celebrate past atrocities committed against their indigenous rights.
If Abraham Lincoln could have envisioned he would be immortalized as “The Great Emancipator,” or as the civil rights president, though, he probably would have reconsidered signing the proclamation that made the last Thursday of each November a permanently affixed national holiday.
In his Oct. 3, 1863 “Proclamation of Thanksgiving,” Lincoln wrote, “To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come … that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”
When Lincoln wrote this spiritual decree, he likely didn’t perceive that Native American religion would be outlawed within the same generation and would remain banned for more than 50 years.
If he had portended the future, he might have had second thoughts about sanctioning a day to give thanks for the civil rights violations perpetrated on indigenous peoples. Perhaps, instead, he would have chastised the country for wanting to celebrate more than 500 years of land theft, racial oppression and genocides. Our idealism leads us to hope so, anyway.
While the ban on the Sun Dance was eventually lifted, Native Americans still struggle for full, unimpeded access to their spiritualities. We don’t have space to go into the intricacies of how American Indian spirituality continues to be suppressed. There are vast informational resources on Native American perceptions of Thanksgiving on the Internet, which we encourage everybody to search.
One example of ongoing oppression was recently underreported in New Orleans. Last week, a five-year-old Seminole boy was granted permission to keep his braided hair at his elementary school, a long-standing spiritual custom of his nation, according to the Times-Picayune.
Curtis Hario had originally been told that he would have to either cut his hair, wear his braid in a bun or be expelled.
Hario was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Native American Rights Fund in his fight for his civil rights on religious and ethnic grounds. Our country is in shame for making a child fight for his spiritual rights.
As you celebrate Thanksgiving however your traditions dictate, we encourage that you become historically informed and sensitized at its greater ramifications for people of the First Nations.
And possibly, the day after, you will pause to respect this Friday as the long overdue first Native American Heritage Day.
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