Tag Archives: indigenous

Update: Onondaga Nation’s Request goes International

map of the Organization of American States
map of the Organization of American States
via Wikimedia
this image is in the public domain

Last Fall, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the Onondaga Nation’s request for legal treaties to be honored.

The Onondaga Nation is now bringing the Land Rights Action to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the Commission), which is part of the Organization of American States. As Jeanne Shenandoah of the Onondaga Nation says,

“This Commission has demonstrated, through rulings in other cases, a profound respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, demonstrated in part by its reliance on and respect for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [the Declaration].”

The Commission has been debating other human rights questions such as whether the “home” of a corporation is liable for the corporation’s actions abroad. It has also been examining the persistent discrimination that underlies violence against women, and ways to abolish the death penalty.

Consider that while the United States Department of State (The Department) points out that the Declaration is not legally binding, it recognizes that the Declaration “has both moral and political force.” The Department also recognizes that the Declaration improves relations with indigenous people. This leads me to be hopeful about the outcome of this next step by the Onondaga Nation.
You can become a Neighbor of the Onondaga Nation and support the Land Rights Action.

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Thanksgiving Days

When I was in college, each time that I drove on the interstate highway past a certain Indian reservation, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t see it. I repeatedly looked at maps to verify that I was looking in the right place. I could not see teepees anywhere.

TeePee Watercolor painting by Karl Bodmer 1832-1834
This work is in the public domain

A few years later, I was lost. As I drove along, I saw signs on both sides of the road stating that I was in an Indian reservation. I became super-alert, expecting men to jump out at me from behind the trees, wearing war paint and loincloths, and threatening to attack me with tomahawks.

Indians with Tomahawks attack a womanThe Death of Jane McCrea Oil painting by John Vanderlyn 1804
This work is in the public domain

A few years after that, a friend mentioned that we were passing through an Indian reservation. All I saw was normal homes, and wondered why I couldn’t see where the Indians lived.

Indian homes?Photo by Cameron Slater, April 26, 2013
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

How the heck could a High Honors student who was relatively enlightened about world cultures learn to be so dumb? I expected to find teepees inhabited in an area where several feet of snow accumulate, and temperatures drop below zero Fahrenheit. I expected characters from an old wild wild west movie to emerge from the woods near where I had lived for several years. I was so sure that Indians lived in teepees, I didn’t think to ask anyone where the Indians really lived.

Thanksgiving Day in the United States

Today, I say Happy Thanksgiving to my neighbors here in the United States. Although this is a secular holiday, most houses of worship host celebrations of thanks to God this morning. Then, we celebrate our relationship with the Earth by feasting at each other’s homes. It is a time of abundant food and hospitality. We often celebrate with local foods, freshly prepared. We enjoy the colors and textures of a wide variety of foods. The aromas, flavors. Conversations with loved ones.

Thanksgiving DinnerPhoto Credit: Remi Levoff,  November 16, 2011
Creative Commons License

According to my review of trends on the internet this week, the most common foods for today are herb-roasted turkey, bread stuffing with celery and onions, gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, squash, Parker House rolls, and pumpkin and apple pies. We make these from ingredients that are typically harvested at the end of our growing season. This menu is consistent from year to year.

This year, our Thanksgiving coincides with Hanukkah, but I didn’t see much mention of that online.

Global Thanksgiving Days

Throughout the year, I say Happy Thanksgiving to my global neighbors. Many people around the world celebrate harvests, especially as they anticipate seasons of ice, heavy rain or drought. When some people celebrate Thanksgiving holidays, they celebrate fertility as they anticipate a productive growing season.

HarvestBy Scott Bauer, USDA ARS
[Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

I like that Thanksgiving continues to relate to agricultural calendars. With the strong global trend toward urbanization, I wonder how long this will continue. Perhaps it will become more of a day of general appreciation.

Thanksgiving Days For Reconciliation

Regardless of when and why we celebrate Thanksgiving, family and friends are an important element. Even those who are tough to get along with are often invited for dinner. Many people also include strangers in their observance of the day, as we share food so everyone can enjoy a feast.

This tradition of reaching out to strangers may be inspired by remembering the story of Indians welcoming Europeans and teaching them how to survive their first winters here. I have a vivid memory from my childhood of a painting showing Pilgrim men sitting at a table full of food while Indian men stood around and sat on the ground. I like to think that this image conveys the importance of replacing oppression with embracing people of diverse religions, races, sexual orientations, abilities and other differences.

First ThanksgivingThe First Thanksgiving at Plymouth Painted 1914
By Jennie A. Brownscombe
This image is in the public domain

Think of how surprised I was to find that the Wampanoag descendents of the people represented in the painting celebrate this day as National Day of Mourning. They and their supportive neighbors are recalling when they lost their lives, trust, dignity, culture, and land to the intruders.

National Day of MourningPhoto credit: nicole s
used by permission from Frank Macer of
UAINE

The plaque:

National Day of Mourning

Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their culture. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.

Erected by the Town of Plymouth on behalf of the United American Indians of New England.

National Day of Mourning bannerPhoto Credit: hate5six, November 22, 2012
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

As we recognize the impact of this tragedy, let’s join with the Onondaga Indian Nation during today’s Annual Thanksgiving Circle for Peace and Hope as we celebrate our appreciation for each other and the Earth, and our commitment to work together for healing and justice, for all people and our environment.

Thanksgiving Circle of Peace and HopePhotographer: JT Lee, November 22, 2012
used by permission from Syracuse Peace Council

Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress by Howard Zinn

An amazing part of history that many of us learn too late, but then, it’s never too late, is it?

Thanks to Howard Zinn for revealing this information, and to Dandelion Salad  for giving permission to re-blog it.

Note: the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Confederacy) and the United States signed the Canandaigua Treaty on November 11, 1794.

Dandelion Salad

by Howard Zinn
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
October 12, 2009

An excerpt from A People’s History of the United States.

Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island’s beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:

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Cultural Freedom

Todadaho Sid Hill, Onondaga Nation
Traditional Chief of the Onondaga Nation, Todadaho Sid Hill addresses the Ninth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues April 2010
By Broddi Sigurðarson
[CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I struggle to resolve my issue of wanting my indigenous neighbors to perpetuate their culture of origin so they can flourish in all their brilliance. I love the beauty of their traditional colors and symbols, perspectives and stories, and physical features.

In spite of this, I do not want to confine them to their ethnic roots.

On the one hand, I want people to be free to be whomever they want to be, even when that means that they choose to adopt others’ practices, and distance themselves from their own heritage. On the other hand, I am afraid that if people truly have this choice, cultures will die.

I don’t want any culture to die. Therefore, I have a hard time trusting that if we give all people the freedom and power to truly live their lives as they choose, some will continue their heritage. After all, no significant part of my identity seems to link with any of the cultures of my ancestry.

I feel free to choose from any cultures that attract me, as if I am at a banquet. I fill my plate from many choices. I choose offerings from the North, South, East and West. I choose offerings from ancient peoples and more-recently-formed cultures. I want everyone to freely choose from the table.

What do I contribute to the banquet? Nothing that you might recognize as being from my ancestors. Therefore, who am I to say that some people must bring something that reveals their superficial lineage instead of their deeper selves? I am simply a guest who certainly has no right to tell anyone what to offer. Nonetheless, I feel enormous disappointment when I realize that an item on the banquet table has disappeared.

Traditionalists see the damage caused by cultural exchanges, and work to protect their populations. My German and Greek ancestors formed closed communities, and continue to perpetuate their ways.

I see other possibilities, and encourage interaction. I want everyone to have access to the banquet, but I don’t want the interaction to dilute cultures. I wonder how we can balance this.

I venture to say that all cultures benefit – and are hurt by – the exchanges that occur during globalization. Perhaps simply valuing all contributions to the banquet minimizes damage, and perpetuates cultural freedom.