In a stunning comment, Natives are turning their backs on Thanksgiving.
In the wake of three fatal shootings in two weeks of Native Americans, some Native Americans, including many from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, are in the process of abandoning the national Thanksgiving Day celebration.
The tribe held a rally on Thursday where Elder Annie E. Adashian, co-chair of the Tribe, addressed the protesters.
“We’re telling you that we have no reason to celebrate because of the dehumanization of our people and human beings that we continue to face,” Adashian said.
For many, the statement is a reflection of the many arguments that have been made by many minorities over the past two centuries. During the late 1800s, America was struggling with assimilating Indigenous populations. Despite growing racial tensions, the use of Thanksgiving as a national holiday continued, often with the government maintaining that the holiday served to bring people together from all over the country.
This idea of the nation as a harmonious family was largely shared by the Native American community.
Despite this sympathy, Native Americans have struggled with white ideals of a “melting pot” which they contend was denied to their ancestors when the government forced them off their land, into reservations, and often onto reservations from which they have continued to fight for their land rights.
Although many of the Nation’s American Indians had been reunited after coming to live on the reservation, the country changed, and the government enforced new policies, such as the Homestead Act. These policies left many Native Americans landless and a few thousand had already been forced onto reservations when the federal government decided that the National Park Service should begin to receive property from Native Americans who voluntarily agreed to settle on the reservations.
An amendment to the federal Indian Reorganization Act was passed in 1938 which, for the first time, recognized the origin of Indigenous peoples’ culture. In December of that year, the Saltik Creek Reservation was established and the first Native American medical school began to open. In 1950, it was renamed the University of North Dakota.
Native American residents still have a long way to go when it comes to life on reservations.
Throughout the National Thanksgiving Day celebrations, Native Americans have traditionally gathered and laid wreaths at their graves.
At the event in Buffalo, New York, during the Pine Ridge Interfaith Thanksgiving service, the Rev. Aaron Kazen told those gathered that the false promise of Thanksgiving turning into a “melting pot” had prevented many from fulfilling their responsibilities.
The exact reasons why Native Americans have cast their ballots were as varied as the modern American family dynamic.
In Omaha, the Lakota tribe were at the forefront of creating a new Thanksgiving ritual – on a reservation in upstate New York. Each Thanksgiving, they would gather to fish. They would gather around the fire and share what they had cooked.
Then one year, the Lakota elders noticed the swimming waters in the area were less than bountiful.
One man, Larry Miller, thought of his old hunting camp and pond, where he often fished and hunted, but had to soon create a new place for the celebration. So he began to incorporate into his Thanksgiving ritual the dancing, drumming, and ritual and called it “Shine of the Waterway.”
At last year’s celebration, Marty and Randy Meggs, who are Natives of the tribe, told the crowd of Native Americans and non-Natives alike, “This is the only time we eat this food together.”
In Buffalo, many Native Americans had something else to say.
“We don’t have a full Thanksgiving feast,” Rev. Kazen said. “We get to go home and celebrate.
“We don’t have to. There are all these other things going on.”