Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm Greatful and thankful but lets not forget the history of Thanksgiving.

There is much I am grateful for this Thanksgiving holiday coming on Thursday. I have survived and managed to have "shelter" through these trying times in my life. I have been living in poverty for over 2 years now but I know I have survived because as hard as it's been the "inner spiritual" part of me never let me give up, as much as part of me wanted to just surrender, as I had grown so very tired and lacked the physical strength.

I think back to the history of this Thanksgiving holiday and what it means to me and maybe to some of you. Yes, we are grateful to be living in this great land of ours. Or are we? Every Thanksgiving I think back to how we came to this country and took the land from the Native American Indians....they are the "original Americans" and yet so many of them live in poverty and trying times and very difficult lives living on the reservations. I don't see much changing through history about this. There are still the same problems. We come face to face with putting people that lived in this land on "little spaces of reservations" for them. We "took" from them and now we celebrate? It often feels and seems rather odd to me that we celebrate what we took from the Native American Indians on this holiday.

I often wonder if the Native American Indians celebrate this holiday? Why would they? To me Thanksgiving day would be a very sad day for them...knowing that we celebrate our "victory" of what we took from people of dignity and great courage who used to live off the land.

Over two years ago I found myself moving to Montana and actually living on an Indian reservation. I thought I had made the right decision and had plans for a new life there for me. Instead it turned out horrific. What I saw and witnessed and what I personally went through there myself. I consider myself lucky to have gotten out of there alive! I now can honestly say to you that it broke my heart to know how some Native American Indians have to live. And what has happened to them because of our history. I learned some wonderful traditions and "spiritual ways" and met a few very interesting "chiefs" and such. But what I mostly saw was total poverty, constantly "living on the edge" struggling for shelter and food and to have a car of some kind to drive.....a lot of alcoholics, drug addicts, mad and angry and violent.....and just trying to get through every day to survive.

I used to think I knew what we had done to the Native American Indians, but now I really do know and have witnessed and experienced it firsthand.

So, I will celebrate what I am "Thankful" for on Thanksgiving day but I will "Not" celebrate what the history of Thanksgiving day represents to this country.

I am humbled and ashamed...and much more aware now then I have ever been before about this holiday that we celebrate. If you sit down at the table and carve that turkey on Thanksgiving day , give a special heartfelt thought to the Native American Indians and how we took their land and much of their integrity and honor. This "land was their land" until we came along.

I humbly wish you all a "Thankful" Thanksgiving.

With Love and many Blessings,



Kylita said...

Amen, SisSTAR Rhiannon. This time of year has always made me feel sad, partly because it's deer hunting season here in Michigan, my father always looked fwd to going to deer camp for 2-3 wks far away from us ... and my mom's birthday was 11/26, often ending up as Thanksgiving (like this yr) and she'd cook her little heart out and no one would ever appreciate how much she did (including me, no doubt). Jeff and I are going to our neighborhood restaurant that day and probably eat a turkey dinner ... and I have a wild turkey fan of tail feathers on my wall, in Native American spirituality I learned that meant that Turkey stood for "Give Away" or something like that ... based on the fact that the turkey has given so much of itself so others can live... I stayed on a ranch in Arizona a few years ago and right beside the bungalow I stayed in was a big cage with a huge turkey in it, its feet were sunk deep in shit and waste and swollen up with abscesses. I could only think of the pain it must've been in. I still have a dream of someday becoming a vegetarian so that I can eat without guilt, but for now I say "thank you" and how grateful I am to whatever creature I'm eating so that I at least do so with awareness. I mean, what do you thank when you eat a hotdog?? So I agree...if I can view this "holiday" as being one for gratitude, I can deal with that, but I view the "original story" as bullshit, another propaganda story fed to us by the White Man, of which we are a part. The path leading to Thanksgiving is filled with a trail of tears. Call us dramatic, whatever ... and what about Columbus Day as something worth not having state or federal employees work during?? What???
By the way ... the picture you have featured of the lady's portrait, I cannot believe how much she looks like my former sister-in-law, Lynn. She is the oldest sister of my ex-husband who just died. I saw her for the first time in over 10 yrs at his funeral and I was the first person she came to to cry on. It was an honor.
I wish you much to be grateful for, as I am grateful for your friendship, SisSTAR Rhi.
Love you xoxo

Lydia said...

Another Amen from me, Rhi. You perfectly expressed how I feel about what the settlers did to the native inhabitants of this HUGE country. There was no need to not have shared; the Native Americans were willing to do that in the beginning. In all good faith they trusted and their trust was repaid in the worst of ways. I'm fascinated (and terrified) to know about your living on a reservation. I never lived on one, but close to them there in Reno. There were Paiutes in school with me all along the way, except none of them graduated high school. What incentive did they have for that passage?
Strange thing is that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it isn't religious or political. However, I never overlook the truth behind the feast.
Thankful for your friendship.

Lydia said...

p.s. Do you even realize what an amazing artist you are? That "Classic Lady" portrait is absolutely great, Rhi!

goatman said...

Having witness now the Hopi live in New Mexico, I can attest to your description of Indian poverty.
The only thing that they had ,that in my opinion was beautiful, was a hot springs on the side of a mountain northwest of Albuquerque.
A wonderful landscape.
Happy Thanksgiving to you from me.

Beach Bum said...

Native Americans have the curse to not only be still mired in the depths of poverty and ignorance caused by our invasions of the continent but unlike many other groups have no real voice in bringing attention to themselves.

While y'all have either lived near or among them, down here in the South Native Americans might as well live on Mars for all Southerners know about their condition.

Muhd Imran said...

Wow. I now know what Thanksgiving really mean because of your post.

I thought it was secular now because of the religious tradition being commercialized to be a hip American tradition for the family.

Your post made me look up the true origin of Thanksgiving... an eye opener. Thank you for sharing.

You have gone a long way and with all the hardship but you survived and are humbled by your experience. You are inspirational!

Owen said...

Another AMEN from me... the treatment the native americans received from day one was shameful... and our collective shame should haunt us. That many Americans never give the whole history there a moment's thought is also shameful.

Are you familiar with Edward Curtis ? His photographs of native americans are awesome... if not familiar, just Google his name, hundreds of his images are on the net...

Carolyn said...

I, too, have always felt guilty about this 'holiday' for the reasons you state here. The Indians taught the white men how to survive in this land, and look how they were repaid! When I wrote the poem I posted, I actually had the primitive setting of the Indians and gentler Pilgrims in mind, each looking to the sky, their God(s) for the bounty, and appreciating the gift and beauty of it in their special ways. If only side by side living could have been so simple from the beginning, huh?

I hope your day was special as only you can make it my dear :-)

Oso said...

Very nice post,thank you.
What I'd say about Indians celebrating Thanksgiving,pretty much yeah most Indian people do, at least that's my experience. Traditionals, people who are very politically aware wouldn't I guess.
Sort of like seeing a cowboy and Indian movie,an Indian kid might totally identify with the cowboys not realizing how ironic it really is. Most Indian people are like that,especially those whose grandparents left the reservation long ago.