Today is about American tradition, and feeling grateful for all that we have been given. The first Thanksgiving represented the gratitude of American settlers towards the indigenous peoples who originally inhabited this country. It is about the men and women who came to North America on the Mayflower giving back to the men and women who helped them to survive in the ‘new’ world. It is about Tisquantum, a Patuxet enslaved by an Englishman, sold in Spain, liberated my monks, and steeped in English before returning to his homeland and teaching the colonists to “catch eel and grow corn.” It is about Massasoit, sachem of the Wampanoag, who “had given food to the colonists during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient.” It is about coming to understanding with your adversaries and beginning life anew.
Yet while Thanksgiving is literally about gratitude toward Native Americans, many today will be content to stuff themselves with industrial meat and processed foods, purchased for the lowest price from a socially and environmentally irresponsible corporation, whooping about football on television and waxing philosophical about the acceptability of the Cleveland ‘Indians’ logo, Chief Wahoo.
Meanwhile, in the Dakotas, the bloody history of our republic repeats itself. Time and again we have appeased Native Americans with treaties only to turn around and break them violently for the sake of our ‘progress’ and ‘manifest destiny.’ While your Uncle Bob cheers on his favorite team today, many Americans in the heartland are at literally at war. I imagine the diverse community at Standing Rock still has much to be grateful for: their own resilience, the aid and sympathy of people from around the world, and their mighty river, the Missouri, which they are trying to protect from harm. What the peaceful warriors at Standing Rock will not be grateful for are the petty mercenaries assaulting them with pepper spray, rubber bullets, water hoses, and concussion grenades. #NoDAPL is not just a native issue: it is relevant to all individuals concerned that climate change is a moral and existential threat to humanity. Scientists should be on the front lines among the water protectors demanding that the new 1172-mile-long oil pipeline, the great black snake connecting the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to an oil tank farm in Illinois, should not be made whole. We must all demand that the Dakota Access Pipeline remains unliving. Because President Obama, in his usual modus operandi, is not about to lift a finger.