I am an American.
I am a proud American of Asian descent and I am thankful for all that I have been able to afford during my time here in this country, but I am not native, and neither is anyone else who does not have indigenous blood flowing through their veins.
With that being said, I do feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. A feeling that I was brought here on accident and that I’m enjoying the fruits of someone else’s labor, or in this case, someone else’s life.
This is something I can no longer ignore.
Even though the Pacific Northwest has a rich indigenous history, I didn’t grow up learning or interacting too much with real Native Americans. In grade school, we were read stories from picture books that portrayed these people as though they were mythical figures from another dimension. We dressed up as “Pilgrims and Indians” to re-enact the “First Thanksgiving.” We did everything except for respectfully honoring the very real lives who once roamed this country freely.
They were caricatures.
They were costumes.
They were props.
As we gather together with our loved ones around the dinner table for Thanksgiving, many Native Americans are gathering together with loved ones at Standing Rock to fight for their home.
I will admit I was fairly ignorant to the issues surrounding this protest. I didn’t want to further contribute to the noise by saying something incorrect or uneducated. After much research and soul searching, I have come to realize the grave severity of the situation and I feel compelled to take action.
We are taught to not discuss politics during times of peace, but the problem is peace for us may not always mean peace for others. I am grateful for the privilege that I’ve been granted, but I would rather use that privilege for more than just myself and those who are like me.
I don’t have any Native friends. This could be because of geography or gentrification or past ramifications of genocide, but I do know they are people. Just like you. Just like me. So when I witness these folks protesting peacefully and the police are armed to the teeth with military grade riot gear and are cruelly spraying them with high-powered water hoses during freezing weather conditions…how can I give thanks this Thanksgiving without acknowledging those who paved the path for me?
I am thankful to be alive.
I am thankful for friends and family.
I am thankful to being doing what I love instead of doing what I must to survive.
This is all in thanks to the brave native men and women who fight everyday just to validate that they are human. I thank you, and I will never forget you.
Water is life.
If you’re feeling the same way, please consider donating to the Sacred Stone Camp GoFundMe campaign to assist the water protectors in their quest to save their families, homes, and way of life.
Here is their campaign statement:
“Hau we are the Inyan wakankagapi otip-Sacred Stone Camp from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. We have partnership with the Oectc Sakowin- Seven Council Fires, Indians and Cowboys and anyone who was to stand with us against the Dakota Access Pipeline. This pipeline will cross the Missouri River and Cannon Ball River which is the life line to many tribes and non-native, when this pipeline leaks it will destroy the water and land. Water is life! So this pipeline is along the Missouri River and the KL pipeline was along the Ogall aquifer both are important to save.
We are asking for financial support for water-propane - food and blankets for the camp. This is a prayer camp movement to save our sacred land and water and has been entirely supported by the people and the campers. We are in great appreciation for all you contributions....Wopila lila tanka-- we are deeply grateful for you contributions thank you!
Sacred Stone Camp”