I haven't participated in Thanksgiving for many years now. It is hard to celebrate the holiday when you know that it was created to commemorate the massacre of Indian people. The irony is that when I was a child, not many gave much thought to the real meaning of the holiday, my Grandmother would insist on a huge family dinner. On the surface, it would seem that we were doing what all Americans were doing on that day. Now, as an adult, I realize that she was teaching us that we needed to be together to affirm that we are still here as a family and a people and we should live, love and be thankful for the life we are given.
That is a hard thing to do, for me at least. I am admittedly, a pretty negative person. I tend to see the bad before I see the good in anything. I have to work hard to be positive and keep suicidal and defeatist thoughts at bay. The holiday season is especially tough to deal with so, this is my effort to keep myself from falling into that rut. I choose to share this because suicide and clinical depression are rampant among Natives. It is my hope that someone reading this will take that moment to look towards the positive and find the strength to go on.
I am thankful for my family. For a mother that loved me without condition and taught me that compassion is strength. I am thankful for a father who taught me responsibility and encouraged me to connect with my Native and African culture. I am thankful for my siblings, my aunts, uncles and my cousins who contributed to raising me through my life. When I think of how many people actually "parented" me through life, I am humbled and grateful.
I am thankful for all of the friends I have. They remind me that I am appreciated as a human being and that I need to have fun. They call me "Master" and "hero" because they know it embarrasses me even though I know their admiration and love is genuine. On my part, it is reciprocated. I consider my friends to be found treasures all and I wouldn't trade them for all the money in the world.
I am thankful for my tribal family. They honor me by calling me "warrior" and accept me in the community as one of their own. I am thankful to know Winterhawk, Blue Sky, Cat, Strong Turtle, Painted Turtle, Loving Spirit, Whitethunder and all of our tribe. I am thankful for our Sachem Robert Pharaoh and his fighting spirit. We are the Montaukett Nation because of the people. State and Federal recognition will only confirm what we already know.
Most of all, I am thankful to the Creator for life itself. I promise not to squander this gift and accept the good and the bad. I am thankful for the hard times that test me and the good times that I've been blessed with. I am thankful that the Creator gives me the chance to stay my self-destruction and urges me to be a better man. I am thankful that I was given a gift to share with the world through my writing.
In closing, this is my challenge to anyone considering ending it all. Find that one thing to be thankful for. You will probably find that you can't stop at just one but all you really need is one. When you find it, hold it, cherish it and keep on living. If I can do it, anyone can.
Mark Rogers is a citizen of the Montaukett and Matinecock Nations located in Long Island, New York, where he is known as Toyupahs Cuyahnu (Crazy Turtle). He has served as a grass roots activist in the African American and Native communities and is a proud veteran NCO of the U.S. Army Reserves Medical Corps. He is presently working on a writing career and seeks to aid fellow veterans through his writing.