I love my family. My brothers are incredible people, full of love and music and insight. My aunt gives the most enveloping, I-love-you-to-your-bones type of hugs. And Thanksgiving is one of the only times we all get together at once. Across the generations of separation & the many forces that have spread us across the country, I am so grateful that we have held onto this ritual of coming back home to one another.
Yet every Thanksgiving I feel a deep dissonance as I see “happy Native” figurines pop up. I remember that this is also the National Day of Mourning as articulated by Wamsutta James in 1970. I remind myself that after 500+ years, the settler occupation of this land persists, and the settler tools of genocide continue.
So, as a settler on this land, I’ve decided to start a new ritual with my family. I am going to make a donation to support the return of U.S. land to indigenous ownership, and invite everyone at my Thanksgiving table to join me.
(1) I believe that true healing and justice require that all humans rebuild our relationship to the land. Dr. Waziyatawin articulates how the loss of a landbase and ecocide are at the root of the traumas that continue to afflict indigenous people today. Returning land to indigenous sovereignty is critical to our just future. Putting money toward that goal is one baby step.
(2) I owe back-rent on this land. All the wealth in my life (income, public services, inheritance, etc.) has its roots in an old transaction where sovereign indigenous land was stolen, and natural resources were exploited to create profit. None of the profit I make exists without that original theft. So if I’m willing to pay my landlord, I am also willing to pay indigenous-led movements who are building a better world.
This can be a cool model to engage my settler friends and families in an on-going way. We can commit together to pay a monthly check to indigenous groups that are building people power and reclaiming land.
(3) I am more whole, more supported, and more powerful when unsettle myself in order to repair generational trauma. Seeking justice requires me to leave my comfort zone and enter scary conversations. It requires that I admit that racism and colonizer ideas still dominate my body and my mind. It requires that I question if I have a right to live on this land at all. The more I undertake this uncomfortable work, I re-emerge less captive to fears and more empowered by connection. Giving money is one concrete step to upend my colonizing society, and it opens the door to conversation and heart-work.
This is why I offer my invitation as a gift to my family. I love them so much that I want them to be more liberated humans.
If you are a settler on this land, would you ask your Thanksgiving table to begin unsettling as well?
Making the ask
Let’s be bold. Let’s ask someone who feels scary to ask, and remember that we trust their humanity enough to listen. Let’s be heart-centered. Let’s ask our loved-ones how they feel connected to indigenous struggles. Perhaps they know what it is like to lose a home, or to face genocide. Perhaps they feel some tiny part of that toxic weight, the admission that we (if settlers) have been condoning occupation and genocide. Perhaps they too want healing and justice.
Where to give
I have included some resources below. I live on Dakota land and have chosen to contribute to Oyate Nipi Kte, because they are not only buying land for indigenous control, but they are supporting Dakota youth to become organizers and cultural workers for their community. I believe they are one example of making I believe they are one example of making change at the roots.
More than one thing to talk about
This week there are many topics to discuss with our loved ones. The enlivened movements to dismantle our police state that kills black people without redress. The workers organizing actions on Black Friday to demand a better wage and livelihood. And there is much more. These movements are entwined at the roots, so let us hold them together. Let’s find the right starting point for our Thanksgiving circles, and let’s start the conversation.
Some resources: (Thanks to Ari Sahagún for compiling many of these)
- Timeline of American Indian Land Theft and Recovery
- Reflections for Deconstructing the Colonial Mentality
- Map of North America with Indigenous Names
- Decolonization is Not a Metaphor
- Accomplices Not Allies – Indigenous Action Network
Some organizations to learn more about current indigenous organizing