In the United States of America, Thanksgiving is one of the most important days of the year. It is the day that we associate most with seeing family and friends and with being grateful for all that we have.
If you look at Thanksgiving from a historical standpoint, it was first started in 1621 when the Plymouth colonists (also known as the pilgrims) had a feast with the Native Americans of the Wampanoag tribe after a successful harvest. The irony, though, is that for a holiday that is so closely related to Native American history, things are a little different this year.
While most of America will be sitting around the dinner table and carving a turkey tonight, the natives of this land, the people who were here first, are currently putting their lives in danger and having to fight to keep what is rightfully theirs in South Dakota.
If you have not heard about the controversy around the Dakota Access pipeline, here is a quick overview of what is happening: a Texas based company, Energy Transfer Partners, wants to build a pipeline through the Dakotas so that they will be able to transport crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois.
That sounds pretty normal, right? Well, there are some issues. Big ones.
For starters, it is a risky venture. Pipelines can burst very easily, and if this one were to burst, it would be a disaster in the Missouri River; animals would die, and the water would be destroyed. On top of this, the placement of this pipeline is directly correlated with the water sources that go to the Native American reservations nearby, and it is highly likely that it will get contaminated and put many at risk of health-issues.
On top of that, the land that they want to build this pipeline on is ancient Native American burial ground. It is considered sacred land, and is very important to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe that resides nearby. How ironic is it that the people who have already once had most of their land stolen are now facing that again?
Thousands of people, both people of the tribe as well as others, have been protesting at Standing Rock; they have been facing terrible weather, bad living conditions and are constantly at risk of being attacked by officials who have been accused of treating the peaceful protestors terribly.
While this issue has been going on for a while now, it is only now finally getting some media attention; it has been largely covered up, and that is not alright because so many of the people in this nation have absolutely no idea that this is going on. If you take the time to find information about what is happening, it really isn’t that hard to learn about it. Most of the facts I talked about, I found here, but there are other sources out there too that’ll tell you what is happening as we speak.
Going back to my point, it might be nice to remain blissfully ignorant… but don’t do that. Don’t be that person.
Enjoy your thanksgiving, but remember that while you are cozy at home, there are people struggling out there; there are protestors being pepper-sprayed and having rubber bullets thrown at them, and there are innocent people who are at risk of having their land taken away.
Be thankful for what you have today, but do what you can to try and help others out too. The first step is educating yourself on what is happening at Standing Rock, but there are so many ways, after that, to make a difference in this situation.
This thanksgiving, remember the Native Americans who were there when this holiday started in the first place, and once you’ve had the stuffing and potatoes, the wine-drunk family and the friends, think about what you can do to make a change.