A recent conversation involving American Indian leadership resulted in a
valuable idea: let's make this year's Thanksgiving season the most
comprehensive outreach on Indian peoples and issues ever.
Anyone who ever ran an Indian program knows that the season of educational
focus for Indians begins on Columbus Day and ends at Thanksgiving.
Columbus Day, since 1992, has become this hemisphere's day of mourning and
protest. The idea of celebrating Columbus and his enterprise becomes
increasingly dubious, given the horrendous misery his so-called "discovery"
brought to the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere. The litany of
prejudice, terror and misery brought by the invasion of the Americas by
European powers continues to the present. That history is now a source of
protest and commemoration, at least among Native peoples, and has switched
from the ill-fated mariner to the fact of resistance and survival of Native
peoples and cultures.
No one doubts that the story of so much arrogance and violence and the
genocide they engendered must be told. The effort to circumvent the true
and relentless horror must not stand. But there is another story, and it is
a wonderful one. This is the story that tells of the truly humane, wise and
selfless approach to life and spirit inherent in the survival of our
traditional cultures. This is the story of respect for the circle of life,
the cosmic marriage of the Mother Earth and the Father Sky; the story of
concern for the people; the story of how the Native peoples and cultures of
the Americas not only survived but have come back; how they have endured
and, most of all, how they have and continue to contribute.
Which brings us to Thanksgiving, that most indigenous of American holidays.
This coming Thanksgiving of 2005, we call on all American Indian nations,
institutions, organizations and programs to sponsor the Great American
Indian Thanksgiving Teach-Out. Let's take the opportunity to reach out to
the American public - from New York to California, from Minnesota to New
Mexico - with the most comprehensive, the most intense educational campaign
ever launched on American Indian peoples, cultures and issues.
American Indian peoples are part and parcel of the American experience. Our
cultures, our languages, our histories are woven into the psyche of
American life. Like the four strands of a fine basket, our tribal
trajectories coil tightly around the foundations of American identity,
providing the early framework upon which the country was constructed. If
the struggle to sustain our nations, lands and peoples has been extremely
difficult - in fact, heroic - the desire and the ability to contribute has
been consistent and true.
American freedom begins on our lands. The formation of the American
character, even the fundamental sustenance of the American people (and the
world's peoples) owes a great deal to the Native American genius for
agriculture. The wisdom of our elders and the superlative spiritual and
pragmatic consciousness of our cultures still thrive and Americans of all
ages, gender, political persuasion and ethnicity should be reminded of its
In approximately eight months, America will celebrate Thanksgiving 2005.
This year, in every college campus, in every major city, at every gathering
from New York City's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to the turkey shoots of
Kentucky, let's tell America about ourselves. Let's celebrate our cultures,
our histories, our foods. Calling on the positive, let's appreciate our
friends and allies - let's teach-out to America that we are a source of
spirit, a source of strength and pride. Let us remind our fellow Americans
that we were here as the first societies and cultures, that we were first
to feed them, first to teach them medicines, first to guide them along the
trails to the bounty of the land and that in war and defense of country we
were always first and gave the most in sacrifice and valor.
In every corner of America, let's honor our vet erans of foreign wars and
of our own struggles or behalf of our tribal nations. With the utmost
dignity, respect and intelligence, next November, let's take advantage of a
wonderful opportunity to usher in the annual Great American Indian