Reflections on Thanksgiving by a Native Revolutionary

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-Mamos

So today  is Thanksgiving.   In this piece, Ahiga Kotori, a Seneca revolutionary and a friend of ours here in Seattle reflects on the holiday.  He asks: what do we really have to be thankful for?   Are folks giving thanks for U.S. capitalism and white supremacy, for 518 years of colonial settlement of North America, for a nation built on stolen Native land and an economy lubricated with Native blood? Why, if these do not really benefit people of color? As Malcolm X said, “we didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us.”

We have been organizing with Ahiga Kotori and many others this fall demanding Justice for John T. Williams.  Williams, a Native American woodcarver was gunned down by  Seattle cop Ian Birk who claimed Williams refused to drop his carving knife.  Investigations have shown that Williams’ knife was not even open and that Birk shot him in the side after giving him only four seconds of warning.  This, as well as several other recent  cases of police brutality against Latino and Black folks, has sparked a multi-racial coalition of working and poor people  to mobilize against the cops.  We will reflect on this movement and analyze it soon, but for now we’ll leave you with Kotori’s haunting question: “what does John T. Williams have to be thankful for?”  While American society gives thanks for the triumphs of empire, and “progress” forged through the death of indigenous peoples, let’s pause to remember that the state the Pilgrims began to establish still claims the lives of oppressed peoples and this will not stop until we dismantle it and replace it with a new society we can truly give thanks for.

That’s why, unless snow disrupts the bus lines, we’ll be out there protesting, responding to Kotori’s call to action.

This Thanksgiving…..

I was wondering if anybody would be willing to have a protest of some kind?  Because in my opinion, this is just the same as the Holocaust except the difference is, we don’t celebrate the Holocaust. Though the Holocaust was horrible, it was a six year thing. Most of it. Our oppression has been going for 518 years. 78 million have died as a result. When Columbus got here there were 80 million people of different tribes and tongues. This was just in the U.S. territories alone!  Yet by the time the white man’s conquest was over, there are a little over 2 million left. Unlike the Jews of Europe, we barely have our identity.

Growing up in the hood, the main people I saw were Blacks and my cousins, who were full blooded Senecas. That experience had me thinking that maybe all non-Native people shouldn’t leave , leaving us the land. Maybe just whites.

Then I meet some white revolutionaries and now I know there are SOME good white people.

However, now, I see that despite the fact that the white man keeps all minorities down, for whatever reason, people of color who are non- tribal, are celebrating Thanksgiving!

Now in the heart of our struggle we must think about the future, what society we want for ourselves, our future, our, children, we must find a way to coexist as men, women, Blacks, Natives, Irish, Italian, Euros, Jews Arabs, Latinos , Muslims, gay men and women. And actually being able to force all non native people off the continent would be a long and difficult and frankly unnecessary task. So that said, if you all are going to stay, I ask for your help in our struggle as we will help with yours.

Would anybody be down to protest or have some kind of protest around it or on the day of Thanksgiving?

Even ya’ll in California. I’m talking to you too!  I’m not asking for ya’ll to commit to this, but please do what you can on your end.

Because lets be real. Do you really think you should only be grateful once a year?

You could pick from 365 days and pick a different day in which to be thankful and eat Turkey. Why celebrate it on the day of the Pilgrims?

I’m not saying Thanksgiving is bad. Its the principle of it.  Its the origin of the holiday. Its the date. Myself, personally, I haven’t really fasted before in my life so I’m gonna try and do that for my fallen brothers & sisters. Again, not asking for commitment, just please try.

If we are to be in solidarity with each other we must help each other. I wouldn’t even bring this up except for that people of color are still celebrating Thanksgiving. In fact the majority of this country are falling back on the “being thankful” excuse.

Again, though we don’t have nothing to be thankful for except God/Allah/Great Spirit. As Natives we don’t have much. White people have a lot. They are the ones who have something to be thankful for. Yet Natives are sometimes expected to be grateful to the white man for what he has done to “Make up for it.”

But a casino and a free college education will never make up for our culture being destroyed, the deaths of the buffalos in the great plains, the oppression of our people for 518 years.

We’re still in poverty, still on food stamps, and most important, still living behind enemy lines.

We, just like Black folks, have been in every major American war. We have fought just as hard as the white man. More than the white man!  have been in the “Revolution” The civil war, WW I, WWII, Vietnam, and every big and small war you can think of and yet we have nothing to show for it in the end.

Then we realize we were just tools.

As far as Thanksgiving itself, we saved the white man from starving. We fed him turkey and corn and that is what people  claim to celebrate. You aren’t celebrating because you are grateful to us for saving your lilly white asses. You are thankful that once your ancestors were full, they began killing us, raping our women, and forcing us to covert to their version of Christianity. Yet through our deeds of saving the white men, our kindness, we were already better Christians than they were. More Christ like.

Anyway, I hope ya’ll in Seattle are open to the idea of a march in the near future or some kind of protest of this holiday. If nothing else, I still hope to resume my fasting for that day. If I can’t fast…..I damn sure won’t be eating Turkey.

Cause if you think about it, what do Natives like John  T Williams have to be thankful for? He was murdered in cold blood by a white devil from the bacon department. What was his crime? He didn’t even have his knife out! What was his crime? According to the pigs they thought he’d been drinking so I heard or that he was a drunk. Why is it okay for white people to drink but Natives and Black homeless folks can’t every now and then? I’m not saying John Williams was homeless but the park was a homeless area.

For those who would defend the police, they need to look at how they treat homeless people. Because if you attack somebody who aint got a  roof over their head, you aren’t a hero or a good person. You are no different than so called “Thugs”

What about those who actually put up a fight when the pigs man handle them? For one person, even an unarmed person, the cops call backup. That sounds like a gang, the same type of people they claim are street scum and lock up. See I’m a Crip though and we aren’t going around shooting people over skin color.

So there is nothing the pigs can say that will redeem them for what they have done. If somebody has a weapon wouldn’t they have used it? If John Williams actually was a threat to the cops, wouldn’t he have attacked the cop without thinking about it? A person with intent to do harm is  not going to fuck about and wait for the cop to  be aware of it.

So, this Thanksgiving I hope that I can unite people of color on this cause so that they are aware of what thanksgiving is as a holiday. So that I can change their minds about the sugar coated version of the holiday. Even if white folks as  a whole keep doing it every year, I hope to get people of color to awaken to a sense of awareness.

I went to this dialogue between the Native community and the police and some people were brown nosing the cops. Saying that they “protect us from gang members. ” But really, now the gang member is who should be having your back. Cause somebody has to protect you from the  police. Who better than a gangsta to understand the struggle you go through? We go through this. We have been through harassment from the cops our whole lives.

We need not be thankful to the police. We don’t owe them a damn thing. We owe only thanks to Allah/God/Jesus/Great Spirit. Who provides us with what we need and courage.

I believe that in our uprising, our struggle, God is on our side, not theirs. The one bright side is that this is waking people up. This tragedy. It has begun the awakening of a people, if not all people.

Salaam Aleikum brothers & Sisters,

Ahiga Kotori

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10 thoughts on “Reflections on Thanksgiving by a Native Revolutionary”

  1. I share ur sentiments re picking a different day to acknowledge gratitude. The pain of what happened to Native Americans will always be fresh. I’ve been fasting on this day for over 5 years, a tradition I needed to start for myself out of respect. Thank you for your voice. In solidarity, Ahiga…. :)

  2. Loved the article. As a young black male I feel this. I talk about this not only every thanksgiving but every holiday period. I wish more Americans were more conscious about our society and really looked into how and why we celebrate certain holidays. I cant understand how this can be a christian nation and it was built upon murder, deceit, and thievery. Only in America. Keep airing these devils out. Not all of us are blind. peace

  3. I agree that what happened in the Americas was awful, and that it mostly destroyed Native American culture and identity, but what I object to is the comparison between any two incidences of deep suffering happening to any community, eg the Holocaust and the slaughter of Native peoples in the Americas. This is because grief is not linear. It does not fade away or lessen just because what happened took place over a lesser amount of years – indeed, anti- Semitism is the evil that the world seems unwilling to shake off. The Jewish diaspora has been driven out of countries, including their own, banned from certain jobs, accused of ritual murder (blood libel), been subject to pogroms and genocide and being turned on by their own neighbours, accused of being Christ killers and sinners and infidels. Even now, in the speech of some of the people around me, they refer to bad things as Jewish. Why? Because they have been taught that the Holocaust is insignificant by others around them. The oppression and the slaughter of the Jews has been happening since the beginning of recorded history, since being held as slaves in Egypt, since having Israel the first time, and up until now, the era of genocide and the new beginning in Israel. I am not Jewish, but I object to the comparison because yes, millions of lives were lost in the colonial conquering of America, but it cannot be compared to anything else. There is a definition of genocide, but there is no scale of suffering, no way to say to one group over another that their suffering is more significant – because there just is not. Every single life lost illegally and with malicious intent is a tragedy, but no comparison should be made between one group and another.

  4. as a white person, I also really loved this article. thank you for writing it and I hope you continue to write because you have a way I think of really hitting home on these issues. I am including a link to this in my zine, I hope that is okay!!

    I haven’t fasted on this day but I think that is a wonderful idea which I will adopt for the future as a way to be personally aware and also to increase awareness in others.

    I also wanted to write some of my thoughts on this about how white people can be better to first nations people re: we can’t just all ‘go home’ at this point. and maybe reconciliation isn’t as important as justice yet but I hope one day it will be possible….

  5. @ Sophie:

    i agree with you that simply comparing historical experiences of genocide is unproductive, but i think what Ahiga Kotori — like many others who have used the same analogy — is pointing to is why particular experiences and forms of white supremacy are denounced by official society, while others are largely ignored.

    why is the Holocaust denounced as the great historical sin that it was, but not the native experience? why is the form of Jim Crow that was defeated by the Civil Rights movement reviled in most history textbooks, but the modern forms Jim Crow like the prison industrial complex is considered a boon to civil society?

    at its surface, the analogy may not be helpful, but i think it points to something deeper. the victories of oppressed peoples have been coopted in order to preserve the legitimacy of the ruling class by incorporating those struggles into the official historiography of the state and ruling class. in this way, liberation becomes the act of state officials and philanthropists, instead of the actions of masses of oppressed peoples.

    further, the struggles against white supremacy are portrayed as something relegated to history. following this, they would have us believe that racism was defeated in the previous generation, and so today there are no struggles. this is, of course, cover for the modern forms of white supremacy, patriarchy, etc, etc.

    but since we’re discussing the specific experience of the Holocaust, i also wanted to respond to your allegation — unless i’m misunderstanding your comment — that the “new beginning in Israel” is another incident of anti-Jewish racism, while nothing could be further from the truth.

    historically, anti-Jewish racism emerged as part of the discourse of the superiority of white/European civilization. materially, this took the form of discrimination through a racial caste system in Europe, fascism, and the imperial & colonial projects of both Europe and the U.S.

    after WW2 many of the same forces and states that propagated anti-Jewish and white supremacist programs and ideas claimed the mantel of Jewish liberation and anti-racism. it was another instance of cooptation, in order to rebuild legimacy. but what is important to note is that the modern state of Israel emerged as another colonial project of white supremacy that stole land from Arab people, and at the same time invited a section of Jewish people to become white if they joined the imperial crusades of white supremacy.

    the ideological program of this new white supremacist, colonial and imperial project became ZIonism. the Holocaust became a political tool used by Zionists to defend the modern state of Israel. one of the great ironies of this “Jewish” state is that many African and Arab Jews have only second class status compared to the European Jews.

    this legacy is important for understanding why and how particular experiences and struggles become coopted to defend the current forms of white supremacy.

  6. Hey this is Ahiga just using a different Alias. I appreciate all the feedback. But I do want to clarify as this was ona different blog and a Jewish person was offended by what I said.

    He had said that Jews in America often dont know their own heritage. But its up to Jewish communities to teach their youths about Judaism.

    As Natives, most times with emphasis on most, I say, that Natives are usually half bloods like myself if and when they are ignorant of their own heritage.

    To be full blooded and not know your roots , you would have choosen to ignore it. The they become apples. What we call Native uncle toms.

    Anyway I wasn’t trying to say the halocaust wasn’t bad or that it wasn’t as bad but it did get more attention than the slaughter of our ppl.

    I’m just saying, that our trials and tribulations were just as horrible. This was the Halocaust of the Americas. I consider any genocide a halocaust.

    The northern Arab government of Khartom in Sudan (I spelled that wrong.) is commiting genocide on black ppl in the Sudan. It is both a racial and a religious conflict.

    That in itself is a halocaust. Now in a lot of cases in Christian/Muslim conflicts, the Christians have been the aggressors. Like in Bosnia for example.

    But in Sudan the Muslim Arabs in the northern government are backed by Al Quieda. Now I’m not going on some rant about Muslim resistance groups like PLO or intafada. I’m talking about Al Quieda, they really are terrorists by definition.

    I could care less about what they did on 9/11 because I view that as chickens coming home to roost. For once, America was getting a taste of its own medicine.

    I’m angry at Bin Laden though because he did partake in the Sudanese genocide. Yet Americans only care about what happened to themselves not considering that America is all too able to protect their country.

    However in Sudan many villages are without protection. A lot of what the conflict is was the Northern government tried to eforce Muslim laws on southern tribes who were non Muslims such as the Dinkas.

    The Northen government forced their ways on African Christians but also anamist tribes. The Sudanese People’s Liberation Army is full of all faiths fighting the Northern enemy.

    That is mainly what that is about but still, that is a halocaust. They are being killed both for tribal and religious reasons which was what the Jews were also killed for. Well, that and economic reasons as well based on what the Nazi propeganda was.

    Now I’m not anit Muslim by any means. I think they are much more racially united than Christians ever have been. I’m just saying when it comes to religious terror it can go any way.

    & I was using it as an example.

    Anyway thanks!

  7. Thanks Ahiga for this beautiful and inspiring post. I think the idea of an uncle tom is important for all people of color and oppressed folks, because it can provide a negative example of what happens when we deny our heritage and history of struggle. I don’t wanna play an identity game, but I do find on a personal level that as a jew trying to develop a strong sense of what it means to fight as and alongside people of color, but also as someone whose family has at times supported white supremacy and islamaphobia, I get very upset with other jews who support israel, u.s. imperialism, or other forms of white-supremacy and do see it as a form of uncle-tomism. In the US in the 1960’s and 70’s for example, jews and black folks were living close to each other or the same hoods in the north east. battles over the neighborhood, against the cops, etc, at times took on powerful cross-race character. At the same time, israeli nationalism and middle/ruling class desires tore apart a lot of that movement. while groups like the BPP were supporting palestinian self-determination, many jews stuck with baclk power movements and stood against zionism, but others turned their backs on people of color and took part in attacks on black and jewish working class hoods. As Jubayr points out, the historical colonial project of israel was an attack on religious minorities and poc’s in a way that created a path to whiteness for those jew’s who took part in white supremacy and colonialism.

    A while back, some members of the native youth movement came to seattle to talk, and it was incredibly inspiring for me. their militancy, attention to anti-patriarchy, and their willingness to call out both capitalist and anti-native actions on the part of the state AND of native folks who took part in capitalist development projects and other efforts to stifle native youth resistance was very inspiring. I think many of us there saw links to palestine, and the need for a struggle that takes identity and heritage of struggle seriously, but also can cut across those lines and see where true oppressors are.

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