Monday, November 30, 2015

Spirit of Thanksgiving is about respecting the earth year round, opines Indian Country Today editor

Ray Halbritter, editor of Indian Country Today and the leader of the Oneida Indian Nation, wrote a column about the true meaning of Thanksgiving and the importance of giving back to the earth. Here is the column in its entirety.
Ray Halbritter
"Recently, a new phrase has snuck its way onto TV airwaves during a seemingly relentless bombardment of holiday commercials. The word? Thanksgetting, as in now it’s time to go out and acquire products and things you desperately want (which, an optimist might argue, could serve as gifts for loved ones, but there’s plenty of ambiguity in these advertisements). Thanksgetting is the inverse of Thanksgiving, of course, the true meaning of which is all too-frequently lost in the pell-mell rush of modern life, where supermarket shelves are stocked with summer fruits all year round and there is no lack for those with money and the means to afford it.

"For indigenous cultures, the idea of giving thanks to Mother Earth for her bounty is not an isolated notion or a calendar-driven one. It is simply a world-view woven into how we try to live in relation to our environment and all the plants, animals and people in it. Respect for our fortunate place in this world rein forces the spirit of thanks, and in the best of times we are never too far apart from that spirit. It’s not an alien concept. For eons, harvest festivals were common celebrations for most agricultural societies. The more aware we are of the cycles of life, death and rebirth, the closer we are to what is right and true.

"This year, the National Geographic Channel broadcast Saints and Strangers (discussed in this week’s issue), a mini-series billed as the “true story” of the pilgrims’ encounter with the Native inhabitants of Turtle Island. It is rare for Indian history to be presented accurately by non-Natives, and this production has been no exception to criticism. There is little room here to delve into details, but there is a remark by Native actor Kalani Queypo in a promotional clip that speaks volumes about the inherent difference of perspectives. Queypo, who plays Squanto, relates how his character makes a suggestion that can be subtitled as, 'Let’s teach them how to farm here.' The literal translation? 'Let us speak to them so they know how to work the earth.'

"One could say we have been speaking so ever since."

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