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Queen: Thanks-giving and surviving

Many American Indians choose not to celebrate Thanksgiving, although we do give thanks to the Creator every day.

Nov. 22 was a day of mourning for many Natives. We remembered our ancestors. We remembered the harmony and balance that once existed between the Earth, all her creatures and the indigenous humans - now threatened by global warming, toxic, cancer-causing air and water pollution, and clear-cut forests - all in the name of progress, profit and individual gain.

We remember the Wampanoag Indians and their leader Massasoit of the New England coast, who inhabited what is now Massachusetts.

The Wampanoag had earlier been largely depopulated by British and French slave-raiding. A European-introduced plague diminished New England's coastal Indians by 90 percent. The Wampanoag shared food with the Plymouth colonists in the fall of 1621, largely because the plague had so decimated their villages. Massasoit was trying to make the colonists allies against their old enemies, the Narragansetts from further west, who the plagues hadn't yet reached. Little did Massasoit know, the European colonists would soon be their greatest enemies by far.

The food the ''Pilgrims'' contributed on that fall day, they'd learned to grow or obtain upon the advice of Squanto and his people, whose ancestors had been there farming, fishing and hunting for millennia on those lands.

Within 50 years, the Wampanoags and all other New England Indians had been nearly wiped out by the settlers' greed, racism, theft of land, mass killings and disease. This conquest continued across the land with America's ''Manifest Destiny.''

Most Indians resisted strongly in defense of their families, land base and cultures - with both weapons and skilled diplomacy. All were eventually overpowered, shot down or imprisoned on reservations, all in the name of Christianity and ''progress.''

At Sand Creek (1864) and Wounded Knee (1890), even women and children were slaughtered and dumped in mass graves by American soldiers. The Cherokee were rounded up like cattle and marched through the dead of winter in 1838 - '39 on the ''Trail of Tears'' to Oklahoma because gold had been found in Cherokee Country. Over 4,000 Cherokees died along the way.

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We are aware that the aftermath of this conquest and massive theft of land and resources continues today. American Indians have the highest poverty rates of any minority group.

No modern, white Americans are responsible for the ''sins'' their ancestors may have committed. Many Indians today have mixed Native-European ancestry. Some 2 - 3 million Natives, from more than 300 different American Indian nations with more than 200 different languages, do want our stories and history accurately told though, which most school textbooks ignore, distort or gloss over.

American Indians work with and gratefully thank those of non-Native ancestry who choose to work with us to address historic and current wrongs and to protect our sacred Earth (e-lo-hi) that we all count on for life.

Many continue to hope that America will one day seriously address historical injustices and treaty violations (more than 370) that continue to this day.

The early European colonists (Pilgrims) would have perished in America without the help of the Native inhabitants and without the theft of Indian land and resources.

America needs to remember that next, and every, Thanksgiving.

David Thundershield Queen is a freelance writer and activist. He heads the American Indian Rights Network in St. Augustine, Fla.