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College of Arts and Sciences

21 Day Racial Equity Indigenous Challenge

In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Collaborative on Race are offering a new equity challenge.  We are dedicated to increasing understandings of race equity and inclusion. To that end, this three-week challenge will offer participants the chance to focus on equity issues that Indigenous people encounter. By building an “equity habit,” we believe we can learn how to understand and celebrate our differences more effectively.

We understand the that issues of race and racism are broader than a black and white issue. We are dedicated to offering a wider knowledge base. With this challenge we focus on expanding our understanding and knowledge of Native Americans. Indigenous people on the American continent have suffered for centuries from genocide, dislocation, and other kinds of violence. Currently, citizens of Native nations are a vibrant part of what makes the United States so beautiful.

This challenge is meant to:

  • break concepts into small and digestible goals
  • empower you to use your voice and influence to create situations for personal growth
  • provide tangible actions to help build a more just future

 

How to use this challenge

Based on the work of Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr., the 21 Day Racial Equity Indigenous Challenge is an opportunity to deepen your understanding of equity issues facing Native people. 

  • Each day read, watch, or listen to the information scheduled for that day.
  • The challenge can be completed alone or in a group. 
  • Each day focuses on a specific topic such as structural racism, allyship, or the origins of race.

 

“Just a reminder: the system in what is currently known as the US isn’t ‘broken.’ It was designed by male white supremacist slaveowners on stolen Indigenous land to protect their interests. It’s working as it was designed.” Dr. Adrienne Keene (Cherokee)

Welcome to our 21 Day Equity Challenge! It is our hope that throughout these three weeks you can learn about the systems that are in place that keeps our communities inequitable. We also hope you are able to confront what may be your own blinders and biases.

Choose one or more:

  1. Explore this interactive map created by Native Land Digital to discover what indigenous land you inhabit.  https://native-land.ca
  2. Read “10 Things You Don’t Know About Native Americans” from Native American Heritage Programs.  https://lenapeprograms.info/teacher-parent-resources/stereotypes-debunked/

Today’s Action: Choose one:

  1. Challenge yourself to find out even more about the huge variety of experiences and histories of Native Americans, especially those whose land you inhabit.
  2. Donate money to programs that support Native communities.  Some options are: Native American Heritage Association (https://www.naha-inc.org/), the First Nations Development Institute (https://www.firstnations.org/), the Native American Rights Fund (https://www.narf.org) and the Adopt-a-Native-Elder Program (https://anelder.org/)
  3. Purchase Native products. http://www.beyondbuckskin.com/p/buy-native.html

Today, focus on Native American Actors and Indigenous Representation in movies, television, and streaming media.

Choose one:

  1. Explore the online exhibit, Americans, curated by the National Museum of the American Indian that asks about imagery and imaginings of Native Americans.  https://americanindian.si.edu/americans/#
  2. Read: “’Rutherford Falls’: Sierra Teller Ornelas Lauds Comedy For Native American Representation as Peacock Series Scheduled to Shoot in Three to Four Weeks” https://deadline.com/2020/08/rutherford-falls-sierra-teller-ornelas-native-american-peacock-1203009156/
  3. Indigenous People React to Indigenous Representation in Film and TV (15:23) Produced by React Media, LLC this explores a variety of Indigenous people’s responses to imagery of representation over the last several decades. This includes Disney’s Peter Pan (1953), The Keep America Beautiful Advertisement (1971), The Lone Ranger (2013), and others. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZkyL5pn74E

Today’s Action: Choose one:

  1. Take stock of the movies, television, and streaming shows that you have seen that have Native American characters. How many of these were played by Indigenous actors? Discuss this with a friend or family member.
  2. Support film and media produced, directed, and starring Native Americans. Click here to learn more. https://www.oklahoman.com/story/entertainment/2021/04/05/14-native-american-films-made-native-filmmakers-oklahoma/4674624001/

There are numerous documentaries that cover thousands of years of history. Below are two more recent examples.

Choose one:

  1. We Shall Remain (2009) – A 5 part documentary series that spans from the 17th century through the 20th https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/weshallremain/
  2. Native America (2018) – A 4 part documentary looks at the hemisphere created by the first people in the Americas. https://www.pbs.org/native-america/home/

Today’s Action: Choose one

  1. Journal about one thing you learned from watching the episode you chose.
  2. Discuss what you’ve learned with a friend or co-worker.

“My ancestors used all parts of the animals and plants with respect, viewing themselves as part of our environment, not above it. Nothing was wasted.” Sean Sherman, The Sioux Chef (Oglala Lakota Sioux)

Focus on the food that you eat. What is in your day-to-day diet that is indigenous to the Western Hemisphere? So much of what we eat today is centered on food that Native Americans first cultivated: corn, sugar, coffee, chocolate! Find out more when you review this list of their contributions to current foodways, compiled and reviewed by Claudia A. Fox Tree, M.Ed (Arawak)   http://nativeamericanresources.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-contributions.html

Choose one:

  1. “Why You MUST Try Native American Cuisine” (20:23) AJ+ "Native American cuisine is America's original food, dating back some 10,000 years. So why don't we see Native restaurants on every street corner in the U.S.? In this James Beard-nominated episode, Yara goes on a road trip through the American Southwest to find out." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fe52rEPQSuU&feature=youtu.be
  2. "Sean Sherman's 10 Essential Native American Recipes"In this New York Times article Sean Sherman, the founder of The Sioux Chef, created recipes to showcase tribal diversity across the lower 48 states. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/04/dining/native-american-recipes-sioux-chef.html

    Today’s Action: Choose one
  3. Journal about this knowledge. Is it new to you? Did you know so many foods are Indigenous to the Americas? Had you thought about where they were from?
  4. Seek out a Native American restaurant or try one of the recipes provided above. 

Our brains play tricks on us. This can lead to harmful stereotypes. Today, think for a moment about how we might better combat our assumptions and biases. How do stereotypes of Indigenous people continue to impact society in the US today?
Choose one:

  1. Watch: A Conversation with Native Americans on Race  https://www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000005352074/a-conversation-with-native-americans-on-race.html
  2. Read: Health Care Providers’ Negative Implicit Attitudes and Stereotypes of American Indians https://mcusercontent.com/7fb0cca1c2ccd1ce97241e7c1/files/9a8d472d-d5fa-80db-6c18-6c9b06ddcee2/ZestcottSpeceMcDermottStone.pdf
  3. Read: Implicit Bias and Native Americans: Philanthropy’s Hidden Minority https://www.ncrp.org/publication/responsive-philanthropy-spring-2015/implicit-bias-and-native-americans#

    Today’s Action: Choose one

    1.    Take 3-5 minutes to journal about your thoughts and feelings after the activity.
    2.    Share the video with one other person and discuss implicit bias.
    3.    Take a moment to think about how you might combat your own implicit biases.

Image by Baylor University https://www.baylor.edu/diversity/index.php?id=956798

What do you know and understand about cultural appropriation? Today take a moment to think through what it might meet to assume or seize someone else’s culture.

Choose one:

  1. Read: “4 Ways to Honor Native Americans Without Appropriating Our Culture” by Taté Walker (Lakota), August 26, 2014 https://everydayfeminism.com/2014/08/honor-native-americans-without-appropriating/
  2. Read: “A Guide to Understanding and Avoiding Cultural Appropriation” by Nadra Kareem Nittle. https://www.thoughtco.com/cultural-appropriation-and-why-iits-wrong-2834561
  3. Watch: What is Cultural Appropriation? The Origin of Everything. Produced by Complexity for PBS Digital Studios. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQgF1f557YY

Today’s action: Choose one:

  1. Develop a plan to implement if someone you know is guilty of cultural appropriation.
    1. Correct misinformation
    2. Explain the stereotype
    3. Describe how it is harmful

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

--Audre Lorde

As we pause to reflect on what we may have learned over the last week it is vital that we are able to center ourselves and begin to heal from within.

Today we look to transformative movement building.

Key Ideas of Transformative Movement Building from the Move to End Violence https://movetoendviolence.org/core-practices/

  1. Transformative movement building recognizes that patterns of injustice are maintained through daily habits and actions. Taking on injustice requires new forms of culture, new modes of relating to ourselves and each other.
  2. Physical and transformative practices help us to move beyond habits of survival mode into practices of thriving.
  3. The change we want to see in the world requires a radical shift in our relationships to one another. The commitment and practice of “Beloved Community” — of reconciliation through repairing harm, even with those we may see as opponents — is central to our vision for a transformed future.

 

Watch this webinar to learn more. https://movetoendviolence.org/resources/embodiment-practice-webinar-recording-guide/

“The numbers speak for themselves: Native American women make up a significant portion of the missing and murdered cases. Not only is the murder rate ten times higher than the national average for women living on reservations but murder is the third leading cause of death for Native women. https://www.uihi.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Missing-and-Murdered-Indigenous-Women-and-Girls-Report.pdf   This is startling as Native people only make up 2% of the U.S. overall population. Urban Indian Health Institute reports the youngest MMIW victim was a baby less than one year old and the oldest victim was an 83-year-old. https://www.uihi.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Missing-and-Murdered-Indigenous-Women-and-Girls-Report.pdf


The recent tragic murder in Wyoming of Gabrielle Petito, a 22-year-old white woman, attracted national attention. Others across the country called out the silence of media recognition of the numbers of Indigenous women who go missing every year. This was especially relevant in Wyoming, where even though Native American women only make up 3% of the population, they make up 21% of the homicides. 

Since 2015 Indigenous women in Canada and the US have been drawing the public's attention to the crisis with their Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women movement. 

Choose one: 

  1. Watch this segment from the PBS Newshour.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VniwyAqemlo&feature=youtu.be
  2. Read the information on the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women's webpage. https://www.csvanw.org/mmiw
  3. Watch this video short, Voices Unheard, produced by Native Hope.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTVuFZuEQWs

Action: choose one:

  1. Volunteer with or donate to the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVSA). You can also sign up for their newsletters.  https://www.sccadvasa.org/get-involved/
  2. Donate to and sign up for newsletters from The Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women.   https://www.csvanw.org
  3. Speak to your local, state, and federal government to see what they are doing to protect Native American Women.

Racism exists on multiple levels: Personal, Interpersonal, Institutional, and Structural. Each of these affect people in a variety of ways, whether they recognize it or not. Today we will explore interpersonal racism.

Choose one:

  1. Look over the checklist of racist behaviors and ways to intervene. (begins on page 6) https://drkathyobear.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Virtual-Institute-handout-Interrupting-Racism-2-22-18-1.pdf
  2. Examine this list of 21 Racial Microaggressions. https://www.buzzfeed.com/hnigatu/racial-microagressions-you-hear-on-a-daily-basis
  3. Read: “Discrimination in America: Experiences and Views of Native Americans.”  https://legacy.npr.org/documents/2017/nov/NPR-discrimination-native-americans-final.pdf

 

Choose one:

  1. Pay closer attention to subtle and overt racist actions and speech in those you interact with as well as in the media. Think about how you might interrupt these.
  2. Learn about ways to be an active bystander.  https://www.afsc.org/bystanderintervention
  3. Have a discussion with a friend or family member about the following questions. (Questions sourced from Race Forward) https://www.raceforward.org
  1. How does the idea that there are a variety of forms of racism compare with your personal understanding of racism?
    What are some of the ways that you see racism playing out around you? Work?
    3. Rabbi Tarfon said, "It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world,but you are not free to desist from it either." What does that mean for you and your organization, family, neighborhood, or place of worship as it relates to racism? Other forms of oppression?

Institutional racism is evident in policies and cultures that benefit the majority and disadvantage the minority. From ideas of "professionalism" to who might be comfortable in norms of whiteness culture. Tema Okun shares some insights on this in this article. https://www.whitesupremacyculture.info/what-is-it.html
 
Choose one:

  1. Read "The Impact of Generations of Injustices" by Yvette Pino (Mescalero Apache) https://networkadvocates.org/recommittoracialjustice/generations/
  2. Listen  to "American Indian Boarding Schools Haunt Many" on NPR https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16516865
  3. Review the Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Organizationhttps://www.aesa.us/conferences/2013_ac_presentations/Continuum_AntiRacist.pdf
  4. Review the Six Phases of Racial Equity Practicehttp://www.dismantlingracism.org/uploads/4/3/5/7/43579015/racial_equity_stages_graphic.pdf

 
Action choose one:

  1. Acquaint yourself with the laws put in place to protect American Indians and Alaska Natives. https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/crt/legacy/2014/06/19/protect.pdf
  2. Reach out to your government officials to make sure that civil rights are being upheld. 
  3. Think about how your decisions at home, work, and in the community advance race equity.

American Indian and Alaska Native households only have 8 cents of wealth for every dollar that the average white American household has, according to a study from 2000—the last year Native wealth was measured systematically. *
 
The highest poverty rate by race is among Native Americans, according to Census information from 2018.**
                  
 
Choose one:

  1. Read "Racial Wealth Snapshot: American Indians/ Native Americans" from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. https://ncrc.org/racial-wealth-snapshot-american-indians-native-americans/#_edn2
  2. Watch "Winds of Change," about South Dakota's Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, where 75 percent of the residents are poor. Efforts are underway to invest in that community. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJ-0vBIxqXM
  3. Watch this video on the Wealth Gap from Race Forward. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPVXdjJCkCA&feature=youtu.be

Action choose one: 

  1. Review the Institute for Policy Studies Ten Solutions to Bridge the Racial Wealth Divide and choose one or more of their options to pursue and lobby for. https://ips-dc.org/report-racial-wealth-divide-solutions/
  2. Use Prosperity Now’s Action Center to respond directly to your lawmakers about issues you want to see changed or implemented. https://prosperitynow.quorum.us/action_center/
  3. FIND OUT WHAT PEOPLE NEED. Call the organizations or agencies in your area for a list of their most wanted items. Distribute the list to family and friends to join the effort.

 

*According to “Lifting as We Climb: Women of Color, Wealth, and America’s Future” Spring 2010. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5c50b84131d4df5265e7392d/t/5c5c7801ec212d4fd499ba39/1549563907681/Lifting_As_We_Climb_InsightCCED_2010.pdf

**Poverty USA

Native Americans have been pushed from their homes since Europeans first arrived in the hemisphere. Today, several studies point to a looming housing crisis that will adversely affect American Indian communities. 
 
Choose one:
 

  1. Read "Unsheltered Not Homeless" (http://therednation.org/unsheltered-not-homeless/) by Hope Alvarado on The Red Nation Blog. Alvarado analyzes how someone could be considered homeless in their Native land. 
  2. Read "Tackling the Housing Crisis Brewing in America's Native Communities" ( https://kenaninstitute.unc.edu/kenan-insight/tackling-the-housing-crisis-brewing-in-americas-native-communities/) from the Keenan Institute for Private Enterprise. 
  3. Watch "Could a New Approach to First Nations Housing be a Gamechanger?" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpRyv5VzmjA) from the Canadian Broadcasting Channel. 

 
Choose one action:
 

  1. Learn about the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2021. (https://nlihc.org/resource/nahasda-reauthorization-reintroduced-senate) Contact your Congress members to voice your support. 
  2. Share what you learned with a friend or family member. 

In a 1971 speech given to the National Women’s Political Caucus Civil Rights Leader Fannie Lou Hamer said, "Now, we've got to have some changes in this country," she told the group. "And not only changes for the black man, and only changes for the black woman, but the changes we have to have in this country are going to be for liberation of all people--because nobody's free until everybody's free." This sentiment has been repeated numerous times and it continues to ring true. How is it that we know our fates are linked yet we continue, as a broader society, to act as if we were unique and separate individuals? Today we’ll learn how racism affects the health of all Americans.

Choose one:

 

  1. Read “Strange Harvest: a Cross-sectional Ecological Analysis of the Association Between Historic Lynching Events and 2010-2014 County Mortality Rates” to understand how a history of lynching leads to shorter life expectancy among all residents. https://mcusercontent.com/7fb0cca1c2ccd1ce97241e7c1/files/78132ec0-cf7a-4f47-86fe-f66e8473ed44/Strange_Harvest.pdf
  2. Watch Heather McGhee on The Daily Show (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZpse-90KTY) where she discusses her book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/564989/the-sum-of-us-by-heather-mcghee/
  3. Read “U.S. Economy Lost $16 Trillion Because of Racism, Bank Says” from NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/09/23/916022472/cost-of-racism-u-s-economy-lost-16-trillion-because-of-discrimination-bank-says

Action choose one:

  1. Take 5 -7 minutes to journal about what this information means to you. Are you experiencing any emotions? What are they?
  2. Share the information you learned with a friend or colleague.
  3. Commit to researching the history of lynching in your county and creating a remembrance commission like the one in Union County. https://www.unioncountycrp.com

 

Pause today to think back on the lessons and actions from the last week. Take a moment to journal about the topics and ideas that stood out most for you. As we move into the last week, remember to keep in touch with what your body and emotions are telling you. Try a 5-minute meditation. Here is a good example. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inpok4MKVLM

The next generations are looking to us to lead them towards equity and justice. Today’s work involves teaching children how to appreciate and celebrate differences. In an article from NPR on kindness the author writes, “In a University of Toronto study, (https://www.utoronto.ca/news/racial-bias-may-begin-babies-six-months-u-t-research-reveals)  infants as young as six months old showed a preference for members of their own race and against members of different races.” Indeed, they often showed the desire for those not like them to be punished. One of the researchers, Thomas Lickona, said, "So here's a real forerunner, evident as early as six months of age, of what becomes ugly prejudice, discrimination and so on later on." Our hope is to equip you to have important conversations with the children in your life, the younger the better.

 

 

Choose one:

  1. Listen to or read this article, “Why All Parents Should Talk With Their Kids About Social Identity” and spend some time with the provided links there. https://www.npr.org/2019/10/08/767205198/the-things-parents-dont-talk-about-with-their-kids-but-should
  2. Read “8 Tips for Talking to Your Child About Racial Injustice” https://www.embracerace.org/resources/young-kids-racial-injustice
  3. Explore the Learning for Justice website. https://www.learningforjustice.org

 

Choose one action:

  1. Share these resources with parents and educators.
  2. Approach your local school board to discuss including education on racism in the curriculum.

Reparation: the making of amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged.

Now that we understand a bit more about the extended impacts of racism extending from the founding of the United States, what can be done to make amends with generations of people who suffered?

Choose one:

  1. Examine the National African American Reparations Commission Preliminary Report. https://ibw21.org/docs/naarc/NAARC_Preliminary_Reparations_Program.pdf
  2. Review the Land Reparations & Indigenous Solidarity Toolkit https://resourcegeneration.org/land-reparations-indigenous-solidarity-action-guide/
  3. Watch Native Americans seek reparations in different forms: Part One. Produced by Nightline. https://youtu.be/I35DDoyUOh8

 

Action choose one:

  1. Review the Indigenous Principles of Just Transition and discuss it with your friends or family. http://www.ienearth.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/IENJustTransitionPrinciples.pdf  Are there steps that you can take?
  2. Examine this resource from the Coming to the Table Reparations Working Group and decide what actions you can take towards reparations either personally or collectively. https://comingtothetable.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/CTTT-Reparations-Guide-August-2019.pdf

"We need people to stand up and take on the problems borne of oppression as their own, without remove or distance.
We need people to do this even if they cannot fully understand what it’s like to be oppressed for their race or ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, class, religion, or other marker of identity.

We need people to use common sense to figure out how to participate in social justice."

-- Roxanne Gay

 

A fundamental step to being a good ally is leaning into discomfort. Amélie Lamont, creator of The Guide to Allyship https://guidetoallyship.com  said, "Many would-be allies fear making mistakes that could have them labeled as “-ist” or “-ic” (racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, etc). But as an ally, you’re also affected by a system of oppression. This means that as an ally, there is much to unlearn and learn—mistakes are expected. You need to own this as fact and should be willing to embrace the daily work of doing better."

It’s important to understand that this is not a one time action. Being an ally is a lifestyle, a way of being where you constantly challenge yourself to listen more deeply. do better, and understand more. When you mess up, here is some guidance: Getting Called Out: How to Apologize https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8xJXKYL8pU

Choose one:

  1. Watch this video on allyship from Netflix. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hJknn4NVBY&feature=emb_logo
  2. Review this document on How to Be an Ally Without Causing Harm. (on page 7) https://hubble-live-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/wfmmarl/redactor2_assets/files/138/Privilege_High_School_Activity_Instructions.pdf
  3. Watch 5 Tips for Being an Ally. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dg86g-QlM0
  4. Listen to Jennifer Brown discuss the Ally Continuum. http://jenniferbrownconsulting.com/blog/from-unaware-to-accomplice-the-ally-continuum/

Choose one or more actions:

  1. Join an organization dedicated to social justice. Follow them on social media and show up to their events.
  2. Donate to an organization that is dedicated to social justice.
  3. Speak up when you see someone being harassed.
  4. Dedicate yourself to practicing call in culture as opposed to call out culture. Professor Loretta Ross explains the concept in this articlehttps://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/19/style/loretta-ross-smith-college-cancel-culture.html

 

Since 1970, the United American Indians of New England have joined together at noon on Cole's Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the United States Thanksgiving Holiday. Below you will find a speech that was intended to be given on that day in 1970.

 

This video, created by Native American ad agency SmokeSygnals, explains the history and significance of the National Day of Mourning.

 

https://youtu.be/-okm80fap68

You can watch this year's National Day of Mourning on the livestream here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrXXA2SaiAs) and donate here (https://www.gofundme.com/f/uaine-fall-2021-fundraiser?utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_source=customer) to support the efforts of the United American Indians of New England.  http://www.uaine.org/


THE SUPPRESSED SPEECH OF WAMSUTTA (FRANK B.) JAMES, WAMPANOAG 

To have been delivered at Plymouth, Massachusetts, 1970 

ABOUT THE DOCUMENT: Three hundred fifty years after the Pilgrims began their invasion of the land of the Wampanoag, their "American" descendants planned an anniversary celebration. Still clinging to the white schoolbook myth of friendly relations between their forefathers and the Wampanoag, the anniversary planners thought it would be nice to have an Indian make an appreciative and complimentary speech at their state dinner. Frank James was asked to speak at the celebration. He accepted. The planners, however , asked to see his speech in advance of the occasion, and it turned out that Frank James' views — based on history rather than mythology — were not what the Pilgrims' descendants wanted to hear. Frank James refused to deliver a speech written by a public relations person. Frank James did not speak at the anniversary celebration. If he had spoken, this is what he would have said:

I speak to you as a man -- a Wampanoag Man. I am a proud man, proud of my ancestry, my accomplishments won by a strict parental direction ("You must succeed - your face is a different color in this small Cape Cod community!"). I am a product of poverty and discrimination from these two social and economic diseases. I, and my brothers and sisters, have painfully overcome, and to some extent we have earned the respect of our community. We are Indians first - but we are termed "good citizens." Sometimes we are arrogant but only because society has pressured us to be so.

It is with mixed emotion that I stand here to share my thoughts. This is a time of celebration for you - celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People.

Even before the Pilgrims landed it was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them as slaves for 220 shillings apiece. The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans. Mourt's Relation describes a searching party of sixteen men. Mourt goes on to say that this party took as much of the Indians' winter provisions as they were able to carry.

Massasoit, the great Sachem of the Wampanoag, knew these facts, yet he and his People welcomed and befriended the settlers of the Plymouth Plantation. Perhaps he did this because his Tribe had been depleted by an epidemic. Or his knowledge of the harsh oncoming winter was the reason for his peaceful acceptance of these acts. This action by Massasoit was perhaps our biggest mistake. We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people.

What happened in those short 50 years? What has happened in the last 300 years? 

History gives us facts and there were atrocities; there were broken promises - and most of these centered around land ownership. Among ourselves we understood that there were boundaries, but never before had we had to deal with fences and stone walls. But the white man had a need to prove his worth by the amount of land that he owned. Only ten years later, when the Puritans came, they treated the Wampanoag with even less kindness in converting the souls of the so-called "savages." Although the Puritans were harsh to members of their own society, the Indian was pressed between stone slabs and hanged as quickly as any other "witch."

And so down through the years there is record after record of Indian lands taken and, in token, reservations set up for him upon which to live. The Indian, having been stripped of his power, could only stand by and watch while the white man took his land and used it for his personal gain. This the Indian could not understand; for to him, land was survival, to farm, to hunt, to be enjoyed. It was not to be abused. We see incident after incident, where the white man sought to tame the "savage" and convert him to the Christian ways of life. The early Pilgrim settlers led the Indian to believe that if he did not behave, they would dig up the ground and unleash the great epidemic again.

The white man used the Indian's nautical skills and abilities. They let him be only a seaman -- but never a captain. Time and time again, in the white man's society, we Indians have been termed "low man on the totem pole." 

Has the Wampanoag really disappeared? There is still an aura of mystery. We know there was an epidemic that took many Indian lives - some Wampanoags moved west and joined the Cherokee and Cheyenne. They were forced to move. Some even went north to Canada! Many Wampanoag put aside their Indian heritage and accepted the white man's way for their own survival. There are some Wampanoag who do not wish it known they are Indian for social or economic reasons.

What happened to those Wampanoags who chose to remain and live among the early settlers? What kind of existence did they live as "civilized" people? True, living was not as complex as life today, but they dealt with the confusion and the change. Honesty, trust, concern, pride, and politics wove themselves in and out of their [the Wampanoags'] daily living. Hence, he was termed crafty, cunning, rapacious, and dirty. 

History wants us to believe that the Indian was a savage, illiterate, uncivilized animal. A history that was written by an organized, disciplined people, to expose us as an unorganized and undisciplined entity. Two distinctly different cultures met. One thought they must control life; the other believed life was to be enjoyed, because nature decreed it. Let us remember, the Indian is and was just as human as the white man. The Indian feels pain, gets hurt, and becomes defensive, has dreams, bears tragedy and failure, suffers from loneliness, needs to cry as well as laugh. He, too, is often misunderstood.

The white man in the presence of the Indian is still mystified by his uncanny ability to make him feel uncomfortable. This may be the image the white man has created of the Indian; his "savageness" has boomeranged and isn't a mystery; it is fear; fear of the Indian's temperament! 

High on a hill, overlooking the famed Plymouth Rock, stands the statue of our great Sachem, Massasoit. Massasoit has stood there many years in silence. We the descendants of this great Sachem have been a silent people. The necessity of making a living in this materialistic society of the white man caused us to be silent. Today, I and many of my people are choosing to face the truth. We ARE Indians! 

Although time has drained our culture, and our language is almost extinct, we the Wampanoags still walk the lands of Massachusetts. We may be fragmented, we may be confused. Many years have passed since we have been a people together. Our lands were invaded. We fought as hard to keep our land as you the whites did to take our land away from us. We were conquered, we became the American prisoners of war in many cases, and wards of the United States Government, until only recently. 

Our spirit refuses to die. Yesterday we walked the woodland paths and sandy trails. Today we must walk the macadam highways and roads. We are uniting We're standing not in our wigwams but in your concrete tent. We stand tall and proud, and before too many moons pass we'll right the wrongs we have allowed to happen to us.

We forfeited our country. Our lands have fallen into the hands of the aggressor. We have allowed the white man to keep us on our knees. What has happened cannot be changed, but today we must work towards a more humane America, a more Indian America, where men and nature once again are important; where the Indian values of honor, truth, and brotherhood prevail.

You the white man are celebrating an anniversary. We the Wampanoags will help you celebrate in the concept of a beginning. It was the beginning of a new life for the Pilgrims. Now, 350 years later it is a beginning of a new determination for the original American: the American Indian. 

There are some factors concerning the Wampanoags and other Indians across this vast nation. We now have 350 years of experience living amongst the white man. We can now speak his language. We can now think as a white man thinks. We can now compete with him for the top jobs. We're being heard; we are now being listened to. The important point is that along with these necessities of everyday living, we still have the spirit, we still have the unique culture, we still have the will and, most important of all, the determination to remain as Indians. We are determined, and our presence here this evening is living testimony that this is only the beginning of the American Indian, particularly the Wampanoag, to regain the position in this country that is rightfully ours. 

Wamsutta

September 10, 1970

Read or listen to the story here: For Native Peoples, Thanksgiving Isn't a Celebration. It's a National Day of Mourning.

 

Today, think about spending some of your time shopping for art and fashion made and produced by Native American artists. Below are several suggestions. 
 

Bunky Echo-Hawk ( Yakama/Pawnee) is an internationally known visual artist and poet. https://www.bunkyechohawk.com/

Steven Paul Judd https://www.thentvs.com/steven-paul-judd) (Kiowa-Choctaw) is a graphic artist whose work is available on t-shirts, stickers and more. Watch this short documentary about him here. https://vimeo.com/265766082

NTVS is a Native American clothing brand that supports and celebrates Indigenous artists. https://www.thentvs.com

B. Yellowtail is a Native American owned fashion brand and retailer. https://byellowtail.com/pages/who-are-we

Lauren Good Day (Arikara, Hidatsa, Blackfeet and Plains Cree) is an artist and fashion designer. https://laurengoodday.com

 

 

Today, read and reflect on this poem by Jennifer Foerster (http://www.jenniferfoerster.com/index.html)  She is a member of the Muscogee Nation and has written two well-received books. Click here (https://www.ttbook.org/interview/new-voices-native-american-literature) to learn more about her and her work. 


Relic

An atlas
on the underside of my dream.

My half-shut eyelid—
a black wing.

I dipped sharp quills
in the night’s mouth—

moths swarmed
from my throat.

I pulled a feather blanket
over my skeleton
and woke—

a map of America
flapping in the dark.

Once I dreamt
of inheriting this—

my mother
who still follows crows
through the field,

my sister’s small hand
tucked inside hers,

me on her breast
in a burial quilt.

Copyright © 2015 by Jennifer Foerester. 

 

Pause today to think back on the lessons and actions from the last two weeks. Take a moment to journal about the topics and ideas that stood out most for you. What new knowledge or understanding do you have? What about this experience will stick with you in coming weeks and months?

As always, remember to keep in touch with what your body and emotions are telling you. Try a 5-minute meditation. Here is a good example. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inpok4MKVLM

*Adapted from the work of Dr. Eddie Moore, The United Way of Central Iowa, The Michigan League for Public Policy, Greenville Equity

 


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