Thanks For Giving

Thanks For Giving

My vibrant, smart, confident, and loyal Famolare readers --- from the corners of my heart, thank you. I am so proud of the communities Famolare has created over the past fifty years and the credit is yours. 

When you decided to make waves with us all those years ago, we began a woman-led revolution to protect the environment, fight for civil liberties, and empower those whose voices have yet to be amplified. 

And so, today, my dear friend Fidel, whom I met 27 years ago on the trails at Canyon De Chelly on the Navajo reservation, will take over this post ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Fidel is a brilliant Indigenous filmmaker and passionate social justice activist. 

Before I leave you, remember Famolare women, what you stand for is more important than what you stand in. 

..Famolare Victoria Staten

.

 

Over 500 years ago, Columbus and Cortez landed on Dominica's shores and the beaches of Veracruz, Mexico. 

Half a millennia ago, there were 40 to 60 million indigenous peoples and cultures. 

At that time, 500 Nations populated the Americas, from Alaska to Central and South America.

Each had its own distinct and separate language. 

Each with its own geopolitical identities and Nations and spiritual and religious beliefs and practices.... 

Various forms of agriculture and complex farming practices were used to provide nourishment. Plentiful harvests secured their winter needs for entire communities and Nations. 

 Through the cold, harsh winters of the Great Northern Plains, the Midwest, and the Northeast, meats, and produce were stored and saved. 

And thus, sustainable farming was born. 

It was these exact indigenous practices of sustainable living and lifestyles that were shared with the early European visitors. 

These precious gifts of knowledge ensured and allowed the visitors to survive those first cold, harsh winters the early European settlers experienced. 

Hence the indigenous practice of GIVING THANKS for the four seasons, the light and warmth of life-giving Spring became THANKSGIVING. 

It was a time to feast on the bounty of fall’s harvest and prepare for the Winter’s cold months. 

This feast would mark a long-lasting tradition of mutual respect and admiration for the cultures. It would be a sacred weaving of stories that would remind future generations of people's intrinsic, altruistic spirit. How, in this lifetime and those before and after it, we are all just walking each other home. 

And while society continues to push this picture in the forefront of our minds when it is time to teach our little ones why we observe Thanksgiving, you and I, dear reader, know the dark truth of what happened to my people. 

As European settlers set foot on the Nations, additional lands were demanded for seeding, cultivation, livestock, and homes. 

And, as we know too well, there were no limits for these early settlers. 

Their grip was tight. 

They hungered for more. 

And as many continued to overwhelm our lands, a dark thought began to emerge in their minds. 

A thought that would evolve into an ugly act and bleed into the lives of many who had no say. 

And so, just before the dark and cold winters --- the early settlers strategically stole our Nation's lands and harvest bounty at a critical season. 

Hereto, the last Thanksgiving would see the indigenous hosts poisoned, their families and communities murdered. Their lands stolen, their harvest bounties confiscated. 

It was, in fact, the early visitor's plan all along. Thanksgiving was just an illusion for the greater event at play: to take from their Indigenous hosts and rightful, hereditary stewards of these Americas and their peoples. Not to give. 

I share this not to shame the current lineage of these early settlers but to educate. To move forward, we must not forget the past. To enact lasting change, we must acknowledge the injustice before we can right a wrong. 

This season, I encourage you to read “Native Roots” & “Indian Givers” by anthropologist, Jack Weatherford, of Minnesota. Both books are easy to understand and absorb. These texts shed light on our Nation's evolution and highlight the current obstacles in front of indigenous people, including the basic and fundamental rights promised to most Americans. 

Let us give thanks for our Native People’s gift of knowledge, and let us move forward with the understanding that this land has not been our land for some time.  

Lastly, I urge you, reader, to sit with these three questions. 

How will you honor the grounds that fed your ancestors? 

How will you advocate for those who first tended to it? 

And which parts of history will you tell your children? 

Fidel Moreno is an Indigenous filmmaker and social justice activist. He is also an American Indian youth advocate, Suicide Prevention Educator & Community Wellness Coordinator, and Transformational & Restorative Justice Advocate.

 

A note from Victoria….

I first read the book Indian Givers soon after meeting the author’s wife. I was speaking at her environmental ethics class at Macalaster college at the time. To this day, I have lost count of just how many copies of the book Indian Givers I have given to friends over the years. In honor of Fidel, one of our nation’s best stewards, I leave you with a poem of thanks. 

 

THANKS FOR GIVING

 

As I sit on my horse

In awe of the majestic canyon’s beauty

The rich sandstone in hues of golden rust

That never sleeps

The native cottonwoods and willows

Now being suffocated

By the tamarisk and olives

Planted by invaders

Who thought they knew better

But only for a time

Not for lifetimes

Ancient homes sit still

High up on the cliffs

I’m honored to be allowed

To sit with the broken pottery shards

Scattered around me

Like the leaves in my yard

Black, white, gray,

Clay vessels that once held

Their sustenance of life

Where did they go?

How did they live?

How did they die?

The cave drawings

Left to share their stories

We try to interpret them

Through our shaded lenses

I sit at the door

Of my friend’s abandoned hogan

A tradition of honor

And respect for loved ones

Now in a higher place

The land is theirs

But there is no deed

The treaties are filled with words

They could not understand

The enormity of the request

The demands of the Great White Father

They acquiesced

To save their brethren

To bring peace to their land

In appreciation for their sacrifice

I am reminded 

We are all in this together

My moccasins ground my feet

To the land we now share

My Famolares stir my spirit

As I walk on their native soil

With love and deep respect

Thanks for giving

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