Three Token Brown Girls Thanksgiving Tool Box
Today we put out episode 2 of our first season of our Three Token Brown Girls podcast! We’re super excited about it because Thanksgiving is just around the corner and we all have some problematic family members who could use some help getting up to speed with the way we would like to see 2018 go. Our most recent episode covers various Thanksgiving ‘Myths’ and different ways to solve them at the Thanksgiving dinner table. It’s so important that we are doing our own legwork, especially if we aren’t indigenous to the Americas, and especially if we hold any level of privilege and power in society. We all have a responsibility to be honest in how we approach and proceed with holidays rooted deeply in colonization and colonialist efforts to erase our first peoples. In order to truly be accountable, we are forced to deal with the realities and histories of genocide, settler colonialism, racism, and modern forms of erasure.
How do we accomplish this?
We accomplish this one meal, one conversation at a time. We do our best to explain what we know and when we don’t know an answer, we research to find it. When we don’t have the best response on the spot, we stand our ground in what we know is right or wrong. We end the acceptance of hate and willful ignorance and we do our best to educate ourselves so that we can educate others.
We can’t promise that our answers will solve the worlds problems. Actually, we’re positive they won’t. Heck, we could have even gotten some things wrong ourselves! But we did the best we could to prepare real life comments and scenarios and some solutions to those problems. Feel free to reach out to us and let us know if any of them worked! Maybe you figured out your own awesome answers and methods, and we would love to hear about those too, as we’re always learning and growing with you!
MYTH #1 : Christopher Columbus Discovered America - this isn’t directly tied to Thanksgiving, but fuck it, it’s time to set the record straight!
TOOL : Christopher C. Did not discover America since there were already people living on this land, in fact millions of people through both North and South America. Chris C. actually sailed the ocean blue and ended up in the Caribbean, raped and murdered and enslaved thousands of indigenous people and brought slaves back to Spain. He never stepped food on what is known as the United States of America, but he certainly influenced mass colonization for centuries to come that started a large trend of colonizing and settling in North America. In fact, many other famous colonizers and colonizing countries used Columbus’ travels and findings as a roadmap for their own attempt at taking lands, languages, and cultures from indigenous people. We felt like this was an important piece of information because sometimes we need a reminder that these lands were not empty when people started visiting from Europe. They were full of life and were vibrant with many different peoples and cultures and traditions. We are all settlers on indigenous land (Unless you are indigenous to this land). There are websites and apps you can download that will actually show you whose native land you are on! Something great to do at the dinner table is to look it up together with your family, and ask permission from the native folks of your land before eating your meal. While this may seem purely symbolic, it’s one super small way you can remember who’s backs you stand on this Thanksgiving.
Some other things you can do away from the dinner table are make a goal to support native folks in their efforts for self determination. This can look like donating to a fund, helping support protests and movements, advocating for recognition from our federal government so that unrecognized tribes can have ‘some’ sovereignty. While also acknowledging that indigenous folks shouldn’t have to ask for federal recognition on their own lands. You can take some action at your kids school by suggestion their teachers stop teaching about thanksgiving or Columbus or even suggest bringing in a person native to the land you’re on to educate students, and pay them for their labor.
MYTH #1: Thanksgiving celebrates the first harvest between the Pilgrims and Native people.
TOOL: This is a common theme of thanksgiving, that we celebrate the first harvest and meal between the Pilgrims and the Natives. We think of it as this super harmonious meal that bridged two cultures and communities and it almost acts as a symbol of peaceful relations. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Tell your Uncle Pat at the dinner table to take that damn paper pilgrim hat off ya head! The pilgrims were on one and it wasn’t good. Native folks agreed to help teach these English settlers how to grow food from the ground and how to grow the foods that were native. They basically taught these settlers how to survive because they were rapidly dying due to starvation. Once Europeans got what they needed from the indigenous folks they had encountered, they set out to take their land and resources, all the while enslaving native people and taking native women back to England to ‘marry’ and many to work as slaved in England as well. The English brought over diseases that indigenous folks were not immune to, and when they recognized this, they started providing blankets encased in small pox to indigenous people to help their nations die off more quickly. The ‘pilgrims’ truly believed that god wanted them to take these lands and were grateful and expressed happiness over the deaths of natives, so that they could fulfil this religious plan.
You can start by asking your friends and family what they think thanksgiving is about or what was it that they learned about thanksgiving? It’s likely that we all have similar stories with varying details. This provides an awesomw opportunity to unpack those stories in all their variance and drop some knowledge! You don’t have to say “hey we shouldn’t celebrate this shit” out right, because it’s possible that during the process of unpacking, people will come to the conclusion on their own. (If they don’t, tell them to stop celebrating this shit).
MYTH #1: This happened hundreds of years ago. Why can’t we just get over it and celebrate our family?
TOOL: Actual Grandpa Joe, this didn’t just happen ‘hundreds of years ago. It’s still happening RIGHT NOW! Did you know about the attempted voter suppression in North Dakota? Hundreds of Native people in North Dakota would have been required to show an ID that stated their name, birthdate, and residential address in order to be eligible to vote. Even if it were okay to require a state issued ID to vote, many Native folks in North Dakota who were living on reservation land, do not have residential addresses and have PO Boxes instead, and these would not allow eligibility to vote. In fact many native folks on reservations HAVE to have PO Boxes in order to collect US mail. Native people living on reservation land are further marginalized and disenfranchised by our government. This doesn’t even go into blood quantum laws, living under the thumb of the US government, histories of boarding schools, language loss, culture loss, and so much more. This doesn’t even get into the fact that we dress as native people for Halloween as if they are a people of the past. As if they don’t put prayer into ever single bead on traditional wear. Did we forget that only a year ago native people from across the world were coming together to protect native land and water at Standing Rock? Imagine native children learning about Columbus and Thanksgiving and think about how that contributes to the further colonization of native and indigenous people for generations. Ya, grandpa, this battle ain’t over yet.
How you can support right now
You can donate to local organizations doing the ground work to help protect native people! Do a google search to find out where the closest org is to you. Often times there are even ways to donate online. Lots of tribes are working hard to get federally recognized and can use funds or many tribes are working to reclaim lands and need financial help.
You can volunteer at a local org or on a reservation. Unless you’ve been on reservation land, you probably don’t really know what it’s like. Don’t go in with your white savior complex, as this isn’t a tourism opportunity. Go volunteer because if you’re a settler on this land, you owe a debt to our first peoples.
Do some research on whose land your on and what they may have endured and are continuing to endure. Think critically, read stories, learn from those who experience life as native people, even if it makes you uncomfortable. It’s necessary.
Get vocal! Hey, it doesn’t mean you need to be at the front lines of movements and protests - in fact, please stay in ya lane, but you can use Thanksgiving as your stepping stone into being vocal about the truths behind this holiday and about indigenous people period. This can be your chance to RUIN THANKSGIVING while eating some Bomb potatoes. But really, it’s your chance to say what’s right, to show younger generations at the table that we are ready for a different world, to help the misinformed, and to hopeful change and shift this culture.