Who You Forgot About this Thanksgiving

Chaos was stirring up college campuses all across the nation this week. Students and faculty of virtually all American universities were rousing with excitement as they left to return to their hometowns. Flights were booked, travelers boarded trains, and traffic in every direction was dubbed hectic as thousands sit bumper to bumper. Yesterday, millions of Americans embraced autumnal festivities, watch sports games, and consume turkey all in the name of tradition.

Native American tribes, however, were mourning.

The idea of Thanksgiving we were once taught as children is misconstrued and largely unproven. In our youth, we students pictured European settlers and Native Americans coinciding together at a long table, embracing the company and cultures of each other. We used our hands to draw turkeys and dressed up as “pilgrims” or “Indians” without fully acknowledging the utter atrocities and tragedies indigenous people have endured at the hands of our ancestors. We watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and enjoyed a federally recognized holiday, all the while disregarding the fact that many Native American tribes have a different side to the story. One without celebrations, fond memories, or anything they are thankful for.

The most recent movement regarding Native American people is #NoDAPL which rose to prominence with many protests last year.

Plans were made by a Texas-based company in 2014 to build a 1,172-mile crude oil pipeline beginning in North Dakota near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The Dakota Access Pipeline plan was first opposed by Sioux Tribe members because the pipeline would travel underneath the Missouri River, the tribe’s primary water supply, and transport 570,000 barrels of crude oil to Illinois from North Dakota. The tribe argued that the pipeline would cross over their sacred burial ground and any spill could damage their natural water supply. On Thursday, November 16th, the TransCanada Keystone pipeline leaked 210,000 gallons of oil in Northeast South Dakota. Legislators in Nebraska voted in favor of building the controversial Keystone XL, despite this. Donald Trump approved building the pipeline which would travel from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Trump over-emphasized that the construction would create more jobs, although they would be temporary. The arguments of Native American protesters have been long disregarded, just as their history is by most of America every November.

Last Thanksgiving, members of the Sioux Tribe from South Dakota were protesting the pipeline while many other Americans paid no attention. This year, however, that could change, but only if awareness continues to spread.

The #NoDAPL movement has become prevalent through the use of social media and the support of political figures such as Bernie Sanders and former president Barack Obama, whose administration rejected the initial pipeline plans.

This November, Americans can honor and pay homage to Native American culture by donating to the Standing Rock Reservation as its members continue to advocate their right to clean water. The future of the Keystone XL is still uncertain. As college students, we should try to remember the Trail of Tears before we remember Thanksgiving football games. We should remember many lost their land and livelihood due to greed and injustice, and the founding of capitalism centuries ago. While more pipelines are planned without acknowledging indigenous people, our generation can join the movement to stop them. However, this can only happen if we first recognize and uncover what has been long suppressed: the voices of Native American people. November is Native American Indian Heritage Month and November 24 is Native American Heritage Day. While being grateful, don’t forget about the people who first lived on this land and their history.      

Photos Courtesy of Pixabay.com