The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621. This feast lasted three days, and — as accounted by attendee Edward Winslow — it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims.
Native Americans gathered at Standing Rock are approaching this Thanksgiving with deeply conflicted feelings. Do they observe the historically dissonant holiday, mourn the genocide of their ancestors, celebrate the “water protector” movement, or break bread with Jane Fonda?
The actor and fitness guru is part of a delegation to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota that will serve 500 people a Thanksgiving dinner of 30 pasture-raised turkeys from Bill Niman’s ranch prepared by a locavore chef, according to a press release littered with boldface names.
Kandi Mosset, a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nation, has mixed feelings about the gesture.“What is the narrative there? ‘Oh, we want to help the poor Indians on Thanksgiving of all days?’” asked the 37-year-old who has been at Standing Rock since August.
“We’re trying to make people understand that we don’t need celebrities to come and feed us and get a photo op and just leave,” she added.
Fonda is the latest celebrity to support the indigenous and environmental activists who are opposing the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. The pipeline is slated to cross under the Missouri river just north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, and the tribe fears that spills will contaminate their water source and construction will destroy sacred burial sites.
Actors Mark Ruffalo and Patricia Arquette have visited the encampments, bringing solar panels and composting toilets respectively, and actor Shailene Woodley was arrested with 26 others after a protest on 10 October. Woodley will participate with Fonda in the Thanksgiving meal.
The traditional story of the first Thanksgiving feast between peaceful Pilgrims and generous Natives has been challenged by indigenous groups for decades. The United American Indians of New England began observing a “National Day of Mourning” on Thanksgiving in 1970, calling attention to the history of genocide against indigenous people that included massacres, broken treaties, and the forced assimilation of children through boarding schools that persisted into the 1970s.
Bitter ironies abound for the indigenous activists encamped on the banks of the Missouri river .Many in the camp are still reeling from Sunday night, when North Dakota law enforcement officials deployed water cannons amid sub-freezing temperatures.
Then there’s the controversially named Washington DC NFL team, said Tara Houska, a member of the Couchiching First Nation. The Washington “Redskins”, as the team’s owner insists on calling them, will be playing the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday.
“That’s a racial slur in our nation’s capitol and a romanticized stereotype,” Houska said of the DC football team, adding that it reinforces the false idea that Native Americans all died out.
Houska, the national campaigns director for Honor the Earth, said that she was planning to spend Thanksgiving with friends who live on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. “It’s a day to remember what the real story is and acknowledge that we’re still here, and our ancestors fought and died for us to be here,” she said.
“We wrote an emancipation proclamation to relieve our white brethren from our burden, started a state in Europe called Monrovia, and said all the Europeans could go back and be welcomed,” he said.
The only problem? “No one left.”Wakiya will be back at Standing Rock on Thursday, after a short trip home to California, and he defended Fonda’s plan to serve dinner.
“Let that crazy person feed people and be happy. I mean, come on, we’re talking about Barbarella,” he said, referring to Fonda’s title role in the 1968 cult sci-fi movie.
Despite the historical and current trauma, some indigenous people at Standing Rock are celebrating the unprecedented strength of the movement, which has united members of hundreds of tribes and drawn in many protesters who are calling themselves “water protectors”.
“Thanksgiving this year should be a worldwide celebration to honor the water protectors and recognize the spiritual battle that has sustained us since the arrival of Columbus,” said Cheryl Angel, a Sicangu Lakota. “This should be the year that water is honored at the Thanksgiving table.”
And many enjoy the opportunity to get together with family for a meal, despite the holiday’s origin myth.
“The kids get school off, it’s a national holiday, so it’s a natural time for family to get together,” said Mossett. “I have family on the reservation in Utah who want me to come and bring my daughter, and I’m pretty torn about it.”
“We don’t think of it as celebrating Thanksgiving we think of it as a federal holiday where we get to spend time with family and family is important to us,” said Dave Archambault, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribal council.
Archambault has been leading the tribe’s legal battle against the pipeline. The energy company still lacks the final permit required for it to drill under the Missouri river less than a mile from the reservation.
“Every day is just another day,” Archambault said about Thanksgiving’s significance. “We just have to keep moving forward and fight for our rights.”
So darlings mow down that turkey and celebrate the rich history between the americans and the native americans as they stand off against each other in Standing rock . Reliving history, “lest we forget” ” those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it ” except if it stops the oil flow..