A day seen by many Americans as a day of celebration, a day for family, and a day for giving thanks, is perceived by many Native Americans as a day filled with ignorance, a day filled with anger and a day full of mourning.
By Emma Fiala. Published 11-22-2017 by MintPress News
While millions of Americans prepare this week to get into the holiday spirit, beginning with Thanksgiving, how many are prepared to view the day through an accurate lens? While to many Americans the holiday serves as a reminder to give thanks, it is seen as a day of mourning by countless others. The truth is: European migrants brutally murdered Native Americans, stole their lands, and continue to do so today.
Start by acknowledging that almost everything taught about Thanksgiving in most schools across the country is a lie. Most Americans remember celebrations in elementary school in honor of Thanksgiving that included activities ranging from coloring pages to parades to plays. Everyone knows the drill: The Pilgrims fled Europe before landing on Plymouth Rock. The resident natives taught them how to farm the land, they all sat down for a big meal in 1621, and everyone lived happily ever after in the United States. Continue reading →
The modern rendition of the American Dream can be traced back to 1774, when Virginia’s governor, John Murray, the fourth earl of Dunmore, wrote that even if Americans “attained Paradise, they would move on if they heard of a better place farther west.”
The actual term “American Dream” was popularized in 1931 by the businessman and historian James Truslow Adams. For him, its realization depended on not just being able to better oneself but also, through movement and human interaction, seeing your neighbors bettered as well.
The first peoples to come to the Americas also came in search of a better life. That happened 14,000 years ago in the last Ice Age when nomadic pioneers, ancestors to modern Native Americans and First Nations, arrived from the Asian continent and roamed freely throughout what now comprises Canada, the United States and Mexico. Chasing mammoth, ancient bison and the elephant-like Gomphothere, they moved constantly to secure the health of their communities.
When the northern migrants arrived to this hot stretch of land around the then-nonexistent U.S.-Mexico frontier, Hohokam religious and political life was controlled by a handful of elites. Social mechanisms restricting the accumulation of power by individuals had slowly broken down.
For decades after their arrival, migrants and locals interacted. From that exchange, a Hohokam cultural revolution grew. Together, the two communities created a commoners’ religious social movement that archaeologists call Salado, which featured a feasting practice that invited all village members to participate.
As ever more communities adopted this equitable tradition, political power – which at the time was embedded in religious power – became more equally spread through society. Elites lost their control and, eventually, abandoned their temples.
America’s egalitarian mound-builders
The Hohokam tale unearths another vaunted American ideal that originates in indigenous history: equality. Long before it was codified in the Declaration of Independence,, equality was enacted through the building of large mounds.
But great power isn’t always top-down. Poverty Point, in the lower Mississippi River Valley of what’s now Louisiana, is a good example. This massive site, which consists of five mounds, six concentric semi-elliptical ridges and a central plaza, was built some 4,000 years ago by hunter-fisher-gatherers with little entrenched hierarchy.
Originally, archaeologists believed that such societies without the inequality and authoritarianism that defined the ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Aztec empires could not have constructed something so significant – and, if so, only over decades or centuries.
But excavations in the last 20 years have revealed that large sections of Poverty Point were actually constructed in only a few months. These Native Americans organized in groups to undertake massive projects as a communal cooperative, leaving a built legacy of equality across America’s landscape.
The Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, offer a more modern example of such consensus-based decision-making practices.
These peoples – who’ve lived on both sides of the St. Lawrence river in modern-day Ontario and the U.S. Great Lakes states for hundreds, if not thousands, of years – built their society on collective labor arrangements.
They ostracized people who exhibited “selfish” behavior, and women and men often worked together in large groups. Everyone lived together in communal longhouses. Power was also shifted constantly to prevent hierarchy from forming, and decisions were made by coalitions of kin groups and communities. Many of these participatory political practices continue to this day.
The Haudenosaunee sided with the British during the 1776 American Revolution and were largely driven off their land after the war. Like many native populations, the Haudenosaunee Dream turned into a nightmare of invasion, plague and genocide as European migrants pursued their American Dream that excluded others.
But the ideals of freedom and equality – and the right that Americans can move across this vast continent to seek it out – survive through the millennia. Societies based on those values have prospered here.
The Whanganui River, New Zealand. Photo: Pinterest
In mid-March of this year, New Zealand officially recognized the Whanganui River as a living entity with rights. The river, which the Maori consider their ancestor, is now offered protection through the New Zealand legal system against any human or human-led project that threatens its well-being. It is a critical precedent for acknowledging the Rights of Nature in legal systems around the world.
The communities seeking protection for their natural entities through this approach are operating from a non-Western, often indigenous paradigm that holds a spiritual reverence to homelands and natural systems and an urgency to protect their natural resources. These values are not held in the laws of colonial governments like New Zealand, Australia, Canada, or the United States. But that does not mean they cease to exist, and, in fact, we are seeing a revival. Continue reading →
“As Kinder Morgan tries to force through a pipeline without our consent—risking polluting the land and poisoning our rivers—we are rising up to create a resistance rooted in family, community, and hope.”
Greenpeace Canada helped build the first of 10 tiny houses in the path of the pipeline, which will cross through hundreds of miles of First Nations territory. (Photo: Ian Willms/Greenpeace Canada)
First Nations and allies in British Columbia, Canada, are protesting an expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline by building 10 tiny houses in its proposed path, which runs through more than 300 miles of Secwepemcul’ecw, unceded tribal territory.
“We, the Secwepemc, have never ceded, surrendered, or given up our sovereign title and rights over the land, waters, and resources within Secwepemcul’ecw,” tribe leaders said in a statement, adding that they “have never provided and will never provide our collective consent to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Project. In fact, we hereby explicitly and irrevocably refuse its passage through our territory.” Continue reading →
2016 saw the emergence of a powerful movement against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, through land vital to Native communities, especially the Standing Rock Sioux. For non-Native people who have not been paying attention to indigenous rights struggles over the past several decades, the #NoDAPL movement may have served as a wake-up call to some of the injustices still confronting these communities.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Department deployed a tank and sprayed peaceful protesters with a water cannon amid below-freezing temperatures on November 20, 2016. (Photo: Dark Sevier/flickr/cc)
The years-long, Indigenous-led fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) briefly captured the nation’s attention last fall as images of peaceful resisters being sprayed with water canons and surrounded by police in tanks and other military-grade equipment were spread widely, fueling global outrage and a fierce protest movement against the oil pipeline.
Now that the pipeline is operational and already leaking, internal documents obtained by The Intercept and reported on Saturday reveal the deep collusion between local police forces, the pipeline company, and defense contractors as they executed “military-style counterterrorism measures” to suppress the water protectors. Continue reading →
The march began at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters and ended at Lafayette Square. (Photo: Zoë Flo/Twitter)
“Water is life!” was the cry heard throughout Washington, D.C., on Friday as thousands of people filled the streets and marched for Indigenous rights and the sovereignty of native nations, demonstrating that the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline has sparked an ongoing movement.
“Millions stand by us, and will continue to do so as we receive executive indication that infrastructure projects will be driven by corporate desire rather than American values,” Standing Rock Sioux chairman David Archambault III wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump. (Photo: Peg Hunter/flickr/cc)
The Standing Rock Sioux has responded to President Donald Trump’s executive order to push through the long-contested Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), calling the memorandum “utterly alarming” and warning that following through with it would violate federal law.
In a letter to President Donald Trump on Thursday, Standing Rock Sioux chairman David Archambault III noted that Trump did not accept a request to meet with him, and issued the order “without any consultation.” Continue reading →
Cannonball, ND — President Trump has officially begun his first week in office. As the nation waits to see what executive orders Trump will issue and which promises he will keep, the Standing Rock Sioux are anxiously anticipating a decision from the new president regarding the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. According to one congressman, there may be cause for opponents of the DAPL to be concerned.
Only hours after Trump’s inauguration, Kevin Cramer, a Republican congressman from North Dakota, appeared on the Rob Port Show on 970 AM. During the interview, Cramer said Trump will be rescinding a recent call for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and granting approval for the final leg of the pipeline under Lake Oahe. “By next week the EIS will be rescinded,” Cramer told Port.Continue reading →
North Dakota — The militarization of law enforcement at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline has apparently reached a whole new level. On Monday, independent journalist John Ziegler posted photos and video on Facebook showing what appears to be an Avenger Air Defense System, or AN/TWQ-1, deployed near the Standing Rock Indian reservation in Cannonball, North Dakota. The Avenger is a humvee-mounted, low altitude surface-to-air missile system.
Standing Rock Rising, an official support group of the NoDAPL movement, also confirmed the presence of the Avenger surface-to-air missile system:
“Confirmed: Avenger ‘surface to air’ vehicles spotted near Oceti Sakowin camp. The Avenger is used to fire 8 stinger rockets, mostly used for shooting down drones. The vehicle is also commonly equipped with a 50 cal machine gun.”Continue reading →