The gentlemen you see in the feature image of this post are Ute tribe members Dick Charlie (full-blooded Native American) and John Taylor (African American Buffalo soldier who married into the tribe).
Throughout this past week, I’ve been doing some research on the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy and it’s effect on the Native American community. And this led me to question their alliance with the African American community as well as the parallels between the two. If you aren’t familiar with the current protests happening in North Dakota, allow me to share a few facts with you.
- Members of The Great Sioux Nation at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota are protesting the planned construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
- The DAPL will connect the Bakken and Three Forks production areas in North Dakota to existing pipelines in Illinois, which will safely transport U.S. crude oil to support consumer energy needs.
- This is set to be a $3.7 billion investment that will create 8,000 to 12,000 local jobs during construction. However, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is arguing that the pipeline will “threaten the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the Tribe.”
It’s somewhat ironic that this is happening around the holiday season, especially during Thanksgiving when this country puts on a mask of camaraderie to give “thanks” but never to pay respect to its original natives. Watching video footage of Native American protestors being sprayed with a water hose seemed too close to home for me to ignore, and this led me to question what I could do to help. The first thing that came to my mind was to discover the truth and not to continue living off an illusion. So let’s address one of the biggest ones, shall we?
Out of those two pictures, which one do you think is shown to our children in school?
You guessed it.
We’re all taught a warm, popsicle stick narrative about the Pilgrims and Indians feasting together in Plymouth Rock, MA. Well, according to Hill & Holler Column writer Susan Bates, that only happened once. The true story started with Squanto, a Patuxet Indian, who was captured and sold into slavery in 1614 by English explorers. Knowing the language due to a previous capture to England, Squanto would later act as an interpreter and a guide after his escape from slavery that led to his return to America in 1619. With his Patuxet tribe being wiped out by smallpox disease left by the Englishmen, Squanto went to live with the Wampanoags who later introduced him to the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in 1621. He taught them how to grow corn and to fish, and negotiated a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation; this led to the great feast that only happened once at the end of that year.
Susan went on to reveal that “word spread in England about the paradise to be found in the new world; religious zealots called Puritans began arriving by the boat load. Joined by other British settlers, they seized land, capturing strong young Natives for slaves and killing the rest.” In 1637 in Groton, CT, over 700 men, women, and children were killed by English and Dutch mercenaries. “The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared ‘A Day Of Thanksgiving’ because 700 unarmed men, women, and children had been murdered.” Colonists and their Indian allies continued to attack other villages; “women and children over 14 were sold into slavery while the rest were murdered.” Boats were loaded with as many as 500 slaves leaving the ports of New England. George Washington suggested that only one day of Thanksgiving per year be set aside to celebrate each massacre, and Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving Day to be a legal national holiday during the Civil War.
Native Americans pay homage to their ancestors on Thanksgiving by mourning their deaths, not by pigging out like the rest of us. This led me to question why my community continues to participate in a holiday that spits on the legacy of our allies. I know that the social media memes and videos can be entertaining, but in order for us to be considered a serious group, we’re going to have to unplug from the matrix.
If you aren’t familiar with the Black Seminole Slave Rebellion that took place between 1835 – 1838—which consisted of at least 385 slaves who fought alongside Seminole Indians and Black allies, helping them destroy more than 21 sugar plantations in central Florida—then I suggest you read up on that. If you didn’t know that treaties were negotiated between Native Americans and the United States government to return escaped African American slaves but the Natives never returned any and, instead, helped blacks to freedom as well as harbored many into their community, start researching that. And if you’re not aware that Native Americans, currently, are most likely to be killed by the police than any other demographic, in spite of the war on African Americans, please start paying attention to the data. There are a lot of similarities between our history and theirs. And for many of us (myself included) who have Native American blood in our lineage, I would encourage you to be a lot more astute before participating in European, veiled in American, celebrations that were never created for “us” in the first place. At least out of respect for those who’ve helped us along the way.
Until Next Time…
Bates, S. (n.d.). THE REAL STORY OF THANKSGIVING. Retrieved November 28, 2016, from https://www.manataka.org/page269.html#THE
Moya-Smith, S. (n.d.). Number of Native Americans Killed By Police Rises — Again Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/10/25/number-native-americans-killed-police-rises-again-166198. Retrieved November 28, 2016, from http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/10/25/number-native-americans-killed-police-rises-again-166198
Yan, H. (n.d.). Dakota Access Pipeline: What’s at stake? Retrieved November 28, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/07/us/dakota-access-pipeline-visual-guide/
African & Native Americans share a Rich History. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2016, from http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/african-native-americans-share-rich-history
Quick Facts About Dakota Access Pipeline. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2016, from http://www.daplpipelinefacts.com/#
Squanto Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2016, from http://www.biography.com/people/squanto-9491327#early-life-and-capture
The slave rebellion the country tried to forget. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2016, from http://www.johnhorse.com/black-seminoles/black-seminole-slave-rebellion.htm