At the family Thanksgiving table this year, imagine a world where the idealistic dream of Thanksgiving actually exists – where the descendants of settlers and the descendants of those brought here by force sit down with the descendants of Native Americans in the spirit of generosity and abundance, giving thanks for all that our common Mother has provided us.
I experienced a glimpse of such a world last year at Standing Rock when our delegation of travelers from Philadelphia and around the country worked with the native community at the Standing Rock High School to cook and serve dinner for 2,000 Water Protectors. It was our way of expressing gratitude to those who were taking a brave stand against the Black Snake – the oil pipeline advancing across North Dakota and the fossil fuel industry it serves.
Our dinner guests, Native Americans from tribes across the Americas, along with hundreds of non-native allies, had a common mission to stop the construction of an oil pipeline threatening the land, water and sacred sites of the Sioux. But our commitment and solidarity went beyond one pipeline battle. There was an unspoken understanding that we had come together in common struggle to defend the sacred – life itself. Our shared meal provided us a moment to give thanks to each other for taking part in this work.
Though for now the Dakota pipeline has succeeded in moving forward, the spirit of Standing Rock has spread to communities across the country where citizens have united to defeat the Black Snake. When I first visited Lancaster Against Pipelines, a community group fighting a fracked gas pipeline in Pennsylvania, I almost cried for joy when I saw that their pledge of commitment contained the same values of cooperation, non-violence and love that I saw demonstrated at Standing Rock. The citizens of Lancaster county are putting their bodies in the path of the pipeline to peacefully protect their communities, farmland, streams and woods. So far, 45 have been arrested.
As we gather at dinner tables around the country, let us give thanks to Native Americans for leading the resistance to fossil fuel in defense of Mother Earth, as indigenous people are rising up to do in the Amazon, in Africa and around the globe.
In a society where many of us have been taught a “them and us” worldview through a lenses of separation, scarcity, and domination, we give thanks to Native Americans for articulating a vision of the world as an interconnected web of life to which we all belong, and where there is enough for all of us if we share and cooperate.
Let us also give thanks to Native Americans for all the foods on our Thanksgiving table and in our daily diets that were originally cultivated by native people over thousands of years and offered to early settlers, including potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, beans, pumpkin, and cranberry, as well as the domestication of the turkey.
With gratitude, lets make Thanksgiving a time to give back to Native Americans, and to appreciate the water protectors in our own communities.
Here are some ways to express gratitude each year at Thanksgiving time:
1. Help Native Americans buy land to build restorative economies that will sustain their people and inspire their youth.
Here is one example:
A project lead by Winona LaDuke to buy a farm and start growing industrial hemp and heritage vegetables. The minimum for the fund to succeed has been raised, but much more is needed to buy equipment and supplies to get the farm and processing businesses up and running.
2. Legal defense fund for water protectors at Standing Rock
The trials for approximately 400 non-violent, peaceful water protectors are underway. Please consider contributing here to their defense fund.
3. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit against the Pipeline (DAPL)
Though the pipeline at Standing Rock succeeded in moving forward following Trump approval, the tribe continues its battle in the courts. Earth Justice is representing the tribe in their legal battle, and is also working against oil and gas drilling in many communities. Consider donating to Earth Justice here or here.
4. Legal defense fund for Lancaster Against Pipelines
Help the 45 citizens arrested while peacefully protecting their land and communities in Pennsylvania by contributing to their legal defense fund.
5. Research pipeline battles in your local community and become a water protector.
My blog on our Thanksgiving 2016 trip to Standing Rock, can be found here.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.