Friday, November 26, 2010

THoT 2: The Clarification

Note: This is both a clarification and an extension of yesterday's post, Thankless History of Thanksgiving.

I want it to be abundantly clear that my post yesterday was not a salvo in some War on Thanksgiving. I abundantly love this feast of abundance - as my girth can attest. I love spending time with family. I love turkey. I love tryptophan and naps. And sweet potato and pumpkin pies. And NFL games somewhere playing in the fray.

But history needs to be acknowledged in full. Too many of our friends and neighbors and cousins have suffered too long because we are too full of ourselves to acknowledge that we and our families have done and do bad things.

A friend found my last post to be too anti-Thanksgiving. Granted, the story within the story does seem awfully harsh. I do not, however, apologize for another writer's excesses (if that's how one wants to describe them as). If that's how Robert Jensen feels, that's how he feels. I have no qualms nor arguments therein. I also would not be angry with various indigenous tribes people who also felt a need to not acknowledge the Thanksgiving tradition in this country as some sort of benevolent or good remembrance. After all, do we recognize their fests, let alone their sufferings? Can one enjoy one without sharing the other?

I however, would like to talk about our history as a means of redeeming ourselves, rather than the lazy work of redemptive 'history' that's been making its way through the Great American Redemptive Mythos.

This, then, is my response to my friend:
If the blog comes across as anti-Thanksgiving, that is my error in message control. I'll have to check and edit then.

My intention, however, wasn't to butcher the day - one of my favorites - but to highlight a much-neglected context.

If I heard correctly, Winthrop hosted a second large Thanksgiving feast fifteen years after the initial one to thank God for their successful campaign against the lpcal tribes*. We need to tell our history straight. It needs to include both the inclusion and the exclusion, welcoming and murder, community and violence.

To do less is to do a disservice to our heritage and to neglect our current DNA as well as its majestic and horrible potential.

We can begin to remedy the situation by taking simple steps. Like spreading support for current laws to support current tribes, such as the H.R. 1385:


Title: To extend Federal recognition to the Chickahominy Indian Tribe, the Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division, the Upper Mattaponi Tribe, the Rappahannock Tribe, Inc., the Monacan Indian Nation, and the Nansemond Indian Tribe. This Act may be cited as the `Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2009'.


There is a provision in current law that allows unrecognized tribes to gain recognition through appeal to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Source

Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924 has hurt the Virginia tribes in their prior appeals to the BIA, according to the Washington Times. Tribe officials say the Act forced Indians to identify themselves as "colored" and led to the destruction and alteration of genealogical records. Source

Tribal proponents say the Virginia law amounted to a "paper genocide" and makes the bureau process difficult for the six groups, although there are some genealogical records that do exist and have been submitted to the bureau. Va. Gov. Tim Kaine called the vote "a major step towards reconciling an historic wrong for Virginia and the nation." Source

President Barack Obama has reversed from past presidents and pledged to support recognition of the Lumbee Tribe, which has sought federal oversight for more than a century. According to the AP, Obama has not said whether he will support recognition of the Virginia tribes. Source

*To be fair, preliminary research has not led me to believe that this story is true, either. Story revoked. Genocide, however, is true. And THAT story needs to be told.


  1. I notice nobody commented (so far) on either your previous post, or this "clarification" --- but that's not surprising, since people in this country aren't often accustomed to looking square in the face something that reminds them that, really, this nation has no morally legitimate right to exist.

    (I had a really interesting dialogue on that with my college students about a year ago; we discussed pros and cons, and could find no legitimate downside to this country freely, peaceably, democratically handing over its sovereignty back to the First Nations to whom it still belongs, and found a good many likely upsides to that, worldwide.)

    Now I know that is ultimate blasphemy for some people, but as a Christian, that doesn't concern me, because I don't worship their god called "America".

    But --- not surprising that a lot of people want to just silently tiptoe around anything coming even close to that whole topic, which is shameful. Honest people look truth square in the eye, even when it's ugly, painful, embarrassing, or will lead to personal cost. Meanwhile, God himself sees the ongoing results of our national genocide every day, and he doesn't ignore or forget: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man [or nation] reaps what he sows" (Gal 6.7).

    Would statements like these cause all sorts of firestorm and outrage if they were broadcast on the national stage? Of course, but only from people who would be demonstrating their own hypocrisy in wanting to erase the facts of history that don't work out to our own advantage. (And when I say "our", I could say I identify 80% with "us", since the other 20% of me is of Native ancestry.)

    History changes all the time; we shouldn't be afraid of the changes to history that would result from handing the nation back to its rightful owners. As far as I can tell from how God works, nobody wins if we argue with him ("your arms are too short to box with God", as the saying goes); but it always works out to the ultimate advantage of all concerned if we go along with his way. In this case, it would seem this nation has two choices: either keep on as we have, in our national stance of "la la la, we don't hear that, we don't hear that", when it comes to answering for our genocide; or turn, humble ourselves before God and the First Nations, and do the right thing by handing the place back to them.

    God also has a take on those two choices: "God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble" (a paraphrase of Prov 3.34, "He mocks proud mockers, but shows favor to the humble and oppressed", as cited in Jas 4.6; 1 Pet 5.5); "those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted" (recorded three times, Mt 23.12; Lk 14.11; Lk 18.14). The same sentiment, essentially repeated six times over: looks like God's trying to emphasize something there. And it also looks like he makes the choice simple --- but will America make the right choice?

  2. FINALLY found your comment, Rog! It was stuck in spam. Not sure why...

    Are you a spammer? ;)


Be kind. Rewind.