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Monday, November 25, 2019

Native American HIstory is American History + taking on the myth of Thanksgiving

Growing up as a Diné woman, I was taught to carry on my cultural practices of reverence for land and place. I was molded by the beliefs, prayers, and encouragement of my parents and grandmothers, and was raised hearing stories of our creation—stories that relate us to the world around us. In my community, fall brings with it a full of appreciation of the harvest and new practices to welcome the colder months.

While this time is filled with reverence internally, outside of my community the fall season is also full of cringe-worthy debacles. Between the racist costumes that arise around Halloween, the offensive mascots that storm the field, and the continued perpetuation of the false history of Thanksgiving, this season is challenging as a Native person.

Since the 1990s, the federal government has declared November “Native American Heritage Month.”

This year, however, the White House made another tactical effort to malign Native communities and Nations, proclaiming November as “National American History and Founders Month.” The announcement centers colonizers and “founding fathers,” invisibilizing the Indigenous people whose land was taken and the millions of Indigenous lives lost since contact because of genocide. 

As Philip Deloria asks in his essay, “The Invention of Thanksgiving,” “how does one take on a myth?” At the USDAC we know that is not as simple as saying Indigenous peoples “are still here.” These times call on all of us to deconstruct the myths and falsehoods related to the “founding” of this country, and to work in active solidarity with Native communities. At the USDAC, we want to offer a few ways we might start:

Start Conversations + Take Action
  • Begin conversation around your turkey dinner this year. Use the USDAC’s #HonorNativeLand Toolkit to investigate whose land you’re gathering on and offer a land acknowledgment as a way of opening conversation. Discuss with your loved ones the history you learned or didn’t learn about Native peoples. Brainstorm together how can you move beyond acknowledgment and into allyship and action. Is there a commitment you can make together to learning more about the history of the Indigenous communities that have inhabited the land you occupy? Are there Indigenous-led organizations in your community that you can support?
  • Understand that 100% of the land this country is on is occupied Native land. All. Of. It. In the video “The ‘Indian Problem’” Suzan Harjo shares, “There was no land brought here, the land here was Native Nations’.” She shares the power of myths and falsehoods and how critical they are to the continual dispossession of Native Peoples of their land.
  • Join the movement to recognize Native American history as American History. This social media campaign is working to visually represent how there would be no American History without the Native American contributions, protection and stewardship of Turtle Island (the above photo of me is part of this campaign).
  • Read up! Here’s a great, annotated list of selections from the First Nations Development Institute.
  • Indigenous peoples and communities are on the frontlines of the protection of Earth Mother. USDAC, has been working to support Climate Strikes through the USDAC Bureau of Energy, Power, and Art. We feel strongly this intersection is one we will grow in the next year and encourage you to show up for the next Global Strike on Friday, November 29th.
When I dream of future worlds, I see one that includes and centers Indigenous peoples through a true telling of history, where Native sovereignty and culture is protected and Native land recognized and stewarded with respect. When you understand the history of this country and the treatment of my ancestors, you understand how truly radical this dream is.

Ahe'hee,
Jaclyn Roessel
USDAC Director of Decolonized Futures & Radical Dreams

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Indian Country is under attack. Native tribes and people are fighting hard for justice. There is need for legal assistance across Indian Country, and NARF is doing as much as we can. With your help, we have fought for 48 years and we continue to fight.

It is hard to understand the extent of the attacks on Indian Country. We are sending a short series of emails this month with a few examples of attacks that are happening across Indian Country and how we are standing firm for justice.

Today, we look at recent effort to undo laws put in place to protect Native American children and families. All children deserve to be raised by loving families and communities. In the 1970s, Congress realized that state agencies and courts were disproportionately removing American Indian and Alaska Native children from their families. Often these devastating removals were due to an inability or unwillingness to understand Native cultures, where family is defined broadly and raising children is a shared responsibility. To stop these destructive practices, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

After forty years, ICWA has proven to be largely successful and many states have passed their own ICWAs. This success, however, is now being challenged by large, well-financed opponents who are actively and aggressively seeking to undermine ICWA’s protections for Native children. We are seeing lawsuits across the United States that challenge ICWA’s protections. NARF is working with partners to defend the rights of Native children and families.

Indian Country is under attack. We need you. Please join the ranks of Modern Day Warriors. Please donate today to help Native people protect their rights.

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