Thursday, November 26, 2009

Every vegetarian's favorite holiday

On this happy "Thanksgiving Day," I would like to dedicate some weblog space to the people who lived on the land here before land became something that could be owned. These people have suffered and continue to suffer from the patriarchal capitalist exploitation imported from Europe and instituted here under the auspices of a "people's republic" now referred to as the United States of America. I am speaking of course about the indigenous people.

What follows are the words of Ohcumgache (Little Wolf) of the Northern Cheyennes, who were made to migrate from their ancestral homelands to barren lands in the western parts of this country. The desire to "go north" refers to the Northern Cheyennes' 1877 attempt to escape what was basically the concentration camp where the settlers made them go. The Northern Cheyenne, along with all the indigenous peoples of the earth, are a violated people: their culture, language, bodies, lifestyles have all been violently subjected to the greed and racism of the colonial "settlers." They have been coerced into poverty and shame. As they have little to no recourse for their losses, the least I can do is mention their plight on this day when we are meant to celebrate having "befriended" them.

"We have been south and suffered a great deal down there. Many have died of diseases which we have no name for. Our hearts looked and longed for this country where we were born. There are only a few of us left, and we only wanted a little ground, where we could live. We left our lodges standing, and ran away in the night. The troops followed us. I rode out and told the troops we did not want to fight; we only wanted to go north, and if they would let us alone we would kill no one. The only reply we got was a volley. After that we had to fight our way, but we killed none who did not fire at us first. My brother, Dull Knife, took one-half of the band and surrendered near Fort Robinson...They gave up their guns, and then the whites killed them all."

- from Dee Brown, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West." (New York: Washington Square Press, 1970.)

The images of helpful Squanto sharing corn with the Pilgrim settlers, and of Sacagawea generously guiding Lewis and Clark across the Missouri riverbanks - these are misleading, and serve only to obscure the true history of the indigenous peoples of this country.

No comments:

Post a Comment