There are few examples of American hypocrisy quite as good as the celebration of Thanksgiving. It’s that time of year that all Americans look back fondly on that time when the people who already lived here took pity on the starving immigrants and fed them. We tell it as sweetly as we tell the story of Noah’s Ark and God saving two of every beast while we ignore the annihilation of the rest.
I’m not saying that we should not remember God’s mercy in that moment, but we should probably work on our storytelling. Leaving out the gruesome facts of days gone by allows us to think back on those days with nostalgia, as if everything was perfect then. Looking back on the pilgrim settlement of the northeast with a picture of harmony with the natives is probably about as far off as forgetting that everything and everyone not on that ark died in the flood. Even if things were that perfect then, they sure did a terrible job of showing any semblance of gratitude in the decades following as the Native Americans were pushed off their land and their faith system was made illegal in a country founded on a principle of religious freedom.
Since those days, the Native Americans have held on to different parts of their heritage and in different ways, in different places. Last year I read four memoir by four Native American women, some of whom have been activists in restoring Native American rights.
- The Turquoise Ledge: A Memoir by Leslie Marmon Silko
- Strong Medicine Speaks: A Native American Elder Has Her Say by Amy Hill Hearth
- Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot
- Crazy Brave: A Memoir by Joy Harjo
We can never make up what was taken from them, but we can hear their stories and understand the lives they live. We can raise them up along with other women of color and appreciate their perspective and unique place in herstory.
For more on this piece of history, check out An Indigenous People’s History of the United States. Another indigenous story that happens to not be of the US but still in North America is Rigoberta Menchu’s I, Rigoberta.