Imagine you are walking in the woods and you see a small dog sitting by a tree. As you approach it, it suddenly lunges at you, teeth bared. You are frightened and angry. But then you notice that one of its legs is caught in a trap. Immediately your mood shifts from anger to concern: You see that the dog's aggression is coming from a place of vulnerability and pain. This applies to all of us. When we behave in hurtful ways, it is because we are caught in some kind of trap. The more we look through the eyes of wisdom at ourselves and one another, the more we cultivate a compassionate heart.
May we know and own and heal our past, which is the only way to not continue
to repeat the horrific tragedies, destruction, oppression, violence and more
which plague us today. May we look at the horror and not turn away.
May we care that much. May we be that brave.
The lives of indigenous peoples in North America ("Indians")---from quality of diet and medicine to individual freedom---were superior to the pinched, unwashed, dour lives transported from Christianized England. The Europeans were far more practiced than the "Indians" in dealing with syphilis, gonorrhea, small pox, typhoid, and bubonic plague, not to mention hangings, slavery, prostitution, religious wars, witch hunts, and inquisitions. European superiority registered in a few devilishly crucial areas, specifically the technologies of firearms, armor, and oceanic transport. The Native Americans had no desire to embrace the religiously oppressive, mean-spirited, acquisitive life of the colonizers. They lived comfortably free from any ruinous impulse for massive wealth accumulation. Labeled as "savage beasts" by the invaders, they actually behaved in courteous and kindly ways---that is, until they realized what they were up against.
The indigenous peoples were subjected to heartless butcheries, beginning with the slaughter of the Arawak (a.k.a.Tainos) of Hispaniola in the 1490s. By the 1630s "our Puritan fathers" were launching attacks against the Pequot tribe, massacring hundreds of men, women and children. The meager number of survivors were sold into slavery in the West Indies. In the 1680s, in the Chesapeake tidelands, there came another wave of mass killings. This was followed by two long centuries of merciless wars across the entire continent, ending with the treacherous slaughter of Lakota men, women and children at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1890.
Estimates of the native population of America prior to the European conquest vary from twelve million to eighteen million, composing more than six hundred distinct tribal societies, speaking over five hundred languages. But after four centuries of warfare, massacre, disease, and dispossession, the original population was reduced by over 90 percent, a holocaust whose magnitude remains largely unmatched and unrecognized today. Whole tribes were completely exterminated or whittled down to scattered numbers. In this way the "Wild West" was "tamed" and "settled."
Today the Native American population has grown back to about 2.9 million, including Native Alaskan and Hawaiian peoples, and additional hundreds of thousands of "mixed race," out of a total U.S. population of some 310 million. Native Americans are also referred to as "Amerindians", "American Indians", or simply "Indians" in the United States. They are officially designated as "Native Americans" by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Indigenous peoples of Alaska were popularly known as "Eskimos," a term that is still in use. They are more properly referred to collectively as "Alaskan Natives." (For some strange reason, many progressives in the United States refer to all Alaskan Natives as "Inuits," even though the Inuit are only one of the Native Alaskan peoples, along with the Aleut, Alutiiq, Athabascan, Iñupiat, Cup'ik, Haida, Tlingit, and Yup'ik. Calling all of these Native Alaskans "Inuits" would be like referring to all Native American Indians as Cherokee.)
Along with the destruction of Native Americans came the expropriation of native lands. "Speaking with forked tongue, the U.S. government broke all of its 600-plus treaties and agreements with various indigenous nations," Brian Willson reminds us. The native peoples were slaughtered with merciless deliberation and forethought so that their lands might be taken. The lands were not stolen as an afterthought. From the very beginning, the primary goal was not extermination but expropriation, not killing the natives per se, but grabbing the land and the fortune that comes with it: great and glorious expanses of farming lands and plains, mighty forests, green pastures and meadows with wild fruits, powerful rivers, wild herds and plentiful game, pristine waters, bays, lakes, fisheries, and inlets, beautiful hills and majestic mountains, deep ravines and vast deposits of rich minerals---all in unmatched abundance.
In quick order, the hostility felt toward the Native Americans took on a fury of its own. They were seen as "red devils," "wild dogs," "blood thirsty savages," and "heathens with souls consigned to hell." As the saying went: "The only good injun is a dead injun." So with most imperialist invasions, the victimized are depicted as victimizers. The heartless destruction of the native population is justified as an act of rectitude and self-defense against subhuman moral inferiors. Racism swiftly becomes the handmaiden of economic exploitation and imperialism.
- Michael Parenti,
Excerpted from Profit Pathology and Other Indecencies, pp. 13-14
As Thanksgiving approaches, many schools throughout the U.S. are making preparations for the standard, and all too cliché, Thanksgiving Day lessons, and fairy tale-esque Thanksgiving plays.
And more often than not, the school Thanksgiving activities are largely based on what ultimately amounts to myth, created to serve the imaginations of the dominant society, and simultaneously functioning to erase the tragedies of Indigenous nations.
The myth usually goes a little something like this:
Pilgrims came to America, in order to escape religious persecution in England. Living conditions proved difficult in the New World, but thanks to the friendly Indian, Squanto, the pilgrims learned to grow corn, and survive in unfamiliar lands. It wasn't long before the Indians and the pilgrims became good friends. To celebrate their friendship and abundant harvest, Indians in feathered headbands joined together with the pilgrims and shared in a friendly feast of turkey and togetherness. Happy Thanksgiving. The End.
From this account, the unsuspecting child might assume a number of things. Firstly, they may assume that pilgrims merely settled the New World, innocently, and as a persecuted people, they arrived to America with pure and altruistic intentions. Secondly, children might assume, and rightfully so, that Indians and pilgrims were friends, and that this friendship must have laid the framework for this "great American nation."
So, what exactly is the harm in this school-sanctioned account of history? Understandably, the untrained eye may not notice the harm in such a myth, as most Americans are victim to the same whitewashed lie as the rest, and dismantling a centuries-old myth certainly does prove challenging.
But the first lesson for educators and adults to digest is the fact that this narrative is egregiously whitewashed and Eurocentric on many levels. Moreover, it is a lie, which serves to rob American children of valuable historical lessons.
Truth be told, this beloved lie was packaged solely for nationalistic consumption when, following the bloody Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Back then, Americans were desperately in need of unity and inspiration. Hence, the myth of the first Thanksgiving was born to inspire and unite.
Beyond the myth, and the seemingly good intentions of Abraham Lincoln (who actuallydespised Indians) the actual story of pilgrims and indigenous people went down much differently.
As a social science educator, I strongly advocate for the unabridged study of human history; for the many valuable lessons imbedded in the stories of our past. Changing any story, essentially, means short-changing American society from some extremely valuable lessons - lessons that function to plant the seeds of social consciousness and humanitarian evolution.
Despite the ban on Protest in Paris, we will be there to raise our voices against war, racism and pollution profiteering. We stand in solidarity with the countless victims of recent violence in Paris, Beirut, and Mali, as well as their families and loved ones.
The It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm delegationof over 100 frontline leaders from climate impacted communities across the US and Canada, including the Arctic, united under the slogan:No War, No Warming – Build an Economy for People and Planet.We stand against the criminalization of the defenders of Mother Earth and the illegitimate criminalization of protest, in particular during the COP21. Civil society, popular movements, indigenous movements and society in general have the right to raise their voices in dissent, especially when our futures are being negotiated. The voices of Indigenous peoples, youth, women and frontline communities need to provide guidance in these negotiations, now more than ever.
Climate justice seeks to address much more than greenhouse gas emissions, but the root systemic causes of climate change itself. Climate justice is about social and economic justice, and how democratic, peaceful and equitable solutions, not military violence, best serve the interests of humanity. The fossil fuel economy is a driver of this multi-faceted crises facing the world: causing resource wars; polluting our air, water and land; creating illness and death to people and of ecosystems; privatization of nature; economically exploiting Indigenous communities, communities of color and the working poor; forcing mass migrations; and, depriving millions of adequate food, access to water, housing, healthcare and healthy and safe employment.
As part of a global climate justice movement, we oppose the bombing of Syria. Over many decades we have witnessed that Western militarism has only increased the instability of the Middle East and other regions. This militarism abroad has also escalated the military complex at home in the United States, where communities resisting the industries causing climate change, have been heavily policed and targeted by police violence.
Our delegation is made up of grassroots leaders from Indigenous, Black, Latino, Asian and working class white communities. We know first-hand the violence and repression of state racism that exploits tragic moments like this. We reject rising Islamophobia and racism across Europe and North America, as well as the scapegoating of migrants and refugees. The global community has a human rights responsibility to refugees fleeing violence and fleeing for their lives. The roots of the Syrian crisis are linked to climate change, and those seeking refuge because of drought, repeated bombing, and the lack of humanitarian support from world governments.
We are in solidarity with undocumented peoples, migrants and people of color facing repression, raids, and police brutality in France and Europe. We know that people of color face extreme violence within and because of colonial States. We support our comrades in this time as we know they face even more racism, attacks and nation-State violence. We call for continued support for these communities and their organizing efforts. Understanding that our struggles are inextricably linked through globalization, militarization, and neo-liberalism, stemming from a long history of colonialism.
Taking action on climate is a essential to global stability and peace. Peace also includes the need to have peace with Mother Earth. Our movements are aligned across issues of migration, climate, human rights and rights of Indigenous peoples, Earth jurisprudence, jobs and housing. We are calling on world leaders, and President Obama in particular, to move toward inclusion over exclusion, renewable clean energy over pollution profiteering, cutting emissions at source over carbon trading and offset regimes, and peace over militarism.
We are inspired by the tenacity and humanity of people around the world, and we will continue to mobilize for Paris and to use our love, creativity and solidarity to make our presence known and felt. The protection of Mother Earth, as we know her, and our collective survival is at stake.
As the rhetoric around the plight of thousands of Syrian war refugees gets more extreme by the day, California Rep.Mike Honda, who was raised in a Japanese-American internment camp, delivers a forceful moral call for compassion and for adhering to our country's principles.
"I was raised in an internment camp and know firsthand how that dark moment in our nation’s history led to repercussions that have resonated over the years.
"I am outraged by reports of elected officials calling for Syrian Americans to be rounded up and interned.
"We simply cannot let the extremist perpetrators of these hateful acts of violence drive us into such a misguided action. For it is when we allow these criminals to lead us down a dark path, away from our principles and ideals, that we as a country suffer."
For the past 81 years, Americans have celebrated Columbus Day on the second Monday of October. That won’t change this year, but a growing number of cities are seeking to abolish the traditional holiday and replace it with a day that acknowledges and celebrates the millions of people who were already living here when Christopher Columbus arrived.
This year, the recast holiday known as Indigenous Peoples Day will take place in at least nine cities across the United States, including in Albuquerque, N.M., Anadarko, Okla., Portland, Ore., St. Paul, Minn., and Olympia, Wash.,according to the Associated Press.
Last year, the Seattle City Council unanimously voted to change the federal Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day, making it the second major U.S. city after Minneapolis to adopt the change, according to Reuters.
The holiday’s new designation follows a decades-long push by Native American activists in dozens of cities across the country to abolish Columbus Day, and they have had mixed but increasingly successful results, according to the AP.
The next community to consider the change is Oklahoma City, where local leaders are scheduled this week to vote on a bill implementing Indigenous Peoples Day,according to NBC affiliate KFOR.
“This is something that I’ve struggled with for a long time,” Sarah Adams-Cornell told the station last month. “The fact that our country, our state and our city celebrate this holiday around this man who murdered and enslaved and raped indigenous people and decimated an entire population.”
In cities that have implemented a new holiday, activists described the change as the first step in a larger effort to reclaim a more accurate telling of history. For those communities, parades celebrating Columbus ignore a violent past that led to hundreds of years of disease, colonial rule and genocidal extermination following the Italian explorer’s accidental trip to the Americas, according to the AP.
“For the Native community here, Indigenous Peoples Day means a lot,” Nick Estes of Albuquerque, who is involved in planning the city’s Indigenous Peoples celebration scheduled for Monday, told the AP. “We actually have something. We understand it’s just a proclamation, but at the same time, we also understand this is the beginning of something greater.”
Our nation was born in genocide.… We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode.