Youth and Education News
November 26, 2003 Issue 123, Volume 1
"Popular culture seems to represent Native Americans as these mythical beings of the past and the Heritage month activities are trying to break down those stereotypes. People should know that we aren't a monolithic group of people. We are comedians, authors, singers, and our cultures are very much alive today." Nickole Fox
Day of Mourning
On Thanksgiving Day, many Native Americans and their supporters gather at the top of Coles Hill, overlooking Plymouth Rock, for the "National Day of Mourning." The first NDM was held in 1970 after Massachusetts invited Wampanoag leader Frank James to deliver a speech. During that year's Thanksgiving feast at Plymouth, Mr. James’ speech--a powerful and angry statement about the oppression of America's Native people--became known, and Massachusetts did not allow him to speak. James left the dinner and ceremonies and went to the hill near the statue of the Massasoit, the Wampanoags' leader when the Pilgrims landed in their territory. There, overlooking Plymouth Harbor and the replica of the Mayflower, James gave the speech he was forbidden to share. Indians and their supporters listened in indignation as Frank talked of the takeover of the Wampanoag tradition, culture, religion, and land. As the years went by, the numbers at the Massasoit statue increased. Reporters arrived from local news media as well as New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other areas to listen to the stories of the Wampanoag and the American people. Today, the National Day of Mourning continues next to Messasoit. Those attending feel it is not appropriate to spend the day feasting. Instead, they join in a fast to show the contrast of remembering the true history of Thanksgiving.
The first Thanksgiving
"Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time, among other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some 90 men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others." Edward Winslow, December, 1621
In the fall of 1621, 90 Wampanoag Indians and 52 English colonists gathered for a three-day harvest feast. The trouble is, almost everything we've been taught about the first Thanksgiving in 1621 is a myth, including the menu.
What historians do know about Thanksgiving?
1. The first Thanksgiving was a harvest celebration in 1621 that lasted for three days.
2. The feast most likely occurred between Sept. 21 and Nov. 11.
3. Approximately 90 Wampanoag Indians and 52 colonists -- the latter mostly women and children -- participated.
4. The Wampanoag, led by Chief Massasoit, contributed at least five deer to the feast.
5. Cranberry sauce, potatoes -- white or sweet -- and pies were not on the menu.
6. The Pilgrims and Wampanoag communicated through Squanto, a member of the Patuxet tribe, who knew English because he had associated with earlier explorers.
7. Besides meals, the event included recreation and entertainment.
8. There are only two surviving descriptions of the first Thanksgiving. One is in a letter by colonist Edward Winslow. He mentions some of the food and activities. The second description was in a book written by William Bradford 20 years afterward. His account was lost for almost 100 years.
9. Abraham Lincoln named Thanksgiving an annual holiday in 1863.
"Genocide" Began With Columbus--Venezuelan President
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says the arrival of Christopher Columbus sparked the largest genocide in history. "There's nothing to celebrate," Chavez said. '"What they [Europeans] did here was massacre the indigenous people." He said the Americas' indigenous population was nearly 100,000,000 when Columbus arrived. In only 150 years, the population had dropped to 3,000,000. "They executed an aboriginal every 10 minutes -- the biggest genocide registered in history,'" Chavez said. Last year Chavez signed a decree changing Venezuela's Columbus Day to the Day of Indigenous Resistance.
The Edmonton Journal
Local soldier commended for “heroic” leadership
For “extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance”during Operation Iraqi Freedom, I Marine Expeditionary Force was awarded the rare and prestigious Presidential Unit Citation. The Force included Corp. Manuelito D. Benallie, a 1997 Farmington, AZ, High School graduate. The Corps maneuvered through enemy kill-zones and ambush sites to secure the al-Azimiyah Presidential Palace on the Tigris River. Benallie, 24, was injured during the operation and for his actions, which Navy officials called “courageous,” “selfless,” “heroic” and “an example for others to emulate,” he was also awarded a Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a combat V. The soldier has also gained something else — a daughter. Madison Benallie was born Aug. 26 to Benallie’s fiance Evangelena Begay.
Leonard Peltier's appeal denied
On Nov. 4, 2003, the U.S. Court of Appeals issued their ruling denying Leonard Peltier's appeal. Peltier was accused of killing two FBI agents during a stand-off on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1970s. The court stated:
"Much of the government's behavior at the Pine Ridge Reservation and in its prosecution of Mr. Peltier is to be condemned. The government withheld evidence. It intimidated witnesses. These facts are not disputed. Mr. Peltier asserts that "the blatant government misconduct is a mitigating factor which should bear strongly on whether (he) should be immediately considered for parole….He may be correct. But whether the Parole Commission gave proper weight to this mitigating evidence is not a question we have authority to review. Our only inquiry is whether the Commission was rational in concluding Mr. Peltier participated in the execution of the two federal agents. On the record before us, we cannot say this determination was arbitrary and capricious." The court also admits: "In 1975, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota was embroiled in conflict between traditional elders, who sought independence from Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) managers, and Native Americans supportive of the BIA power structure. The conflict became violent, and the traditional elders sought protection from members of the American Indian Movement (AIM). Mr. Peltier and other AIM activists arrived at Pine Ridge to defend reservation traditionalists."
have shown that justice and common sense do not apply in the case of
Leonard Peltier. Though it is clear that the system may not grant justice to
Leonard, the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee continues fighting for Leonard's
More about Leonard Peltier: http://www.freepeltier.org/
NCAI honors fallen heroes, listens to Democrats
The National Congress of American Indians began its 60th Annual Convention with traditional honor songs for Lori Piestewa, Hopi, and Sheldon Hawk Eagle, Cheyenne River Sioux, soldiers killed in Iraq. The opening ceremony was followed by NCAI's general session with U.S. presidential candidates rallying for Indian votes, promising to resolve trust fund issues and increase funding for health and education. They described failures and deceit of the Bush administration. Among their comments:
"The United States is not living up to its end of the bargain." Presidential candidate General Wesley Clark speaking about treaties and sovereignty.
"The [Iraq] war was elected and unnecessary." General Wesley Clark
"George Bush has given Americans a raw deal." Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., accusing Bush of caving into lobbyists and catering to industry.
"I'm proud I led the fight we won to stop drilling in the Arctic National Wilderness. I remember the struggle of Wounded Knee and Mount Rushmore and Russell Means." Senator John Kerry, D-Mass.
"When you don't respect sovereignty, it leads to exploitation. There are billions of dollars owed to the tribes. I intend to see this country keeps its agreements." Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio
"When it comes to our Native American tribes, George Bush's talk has been cheap and his
leadership has been even cheaper." Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.,
"George Bush was the worst environmental president in history." Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.
Indian Country Today
Federal Case Centers on Privilege of Indian Medicine Man in Law
Attorneys in Denver say the FBI improperly forced an American Indian medicine man to discuss confidential information by a murder suspect. Attorney Robert Duthiet says his client, Carlos Herrera, spoke with Apache spiritual leader Robert Cervantes, 37. The FBI used that information to obtain a videotaped confession from Herrera. The case raises questions about whether Indian spiritual leaders have the same protection as priests who refuse to give up details of what they hear in confession.
The Associated Press State & Local Wire
Maori compensation claim rejected
New Zealand has rejected a proposal to compensate the indigenous Maori for revenues and rights for oil and gas. The ruling was issued despite recommendations from The Waitangi Tribunal, an independent board which investigates Maori grievances. The Tribulal says the Maori are entitled to millions of dollars in petroleum royalties collected by the government. In a special report it said Maori once owned the petroleum under their land and are entitled to compensation after the resource was nationalized in 1937. Maori tribes had lost their historic interest and property rights in petroleum due to settler breaches of the nation's founding Treaty of Waitangi, it noted.
Acoma Pueblo: A Mission of Resurrection
As Fray Juan Ramírez climbed for the first time a 370-foot mesa at Acoma Pueblo, AZ, one woman in the waiting crowd accidentally dropped her infant over the mesa's edge. Priest Fray Lucas de Maldado caught it. Or so he legend says. Ramírez was Acoma's first permanent missionary, so perhaps his saving the baby encouraged the Acoma people to build San Esteban del Rey Mission. The long, difficult church construction began in 1629 and took 11 years to complete. Now in the 21st century, San Estaban is considered an endangered site. Thanks to $100,000 donated by American Express, a small group of Acoma Indians is working to restore San Esteban del Rey Mission The tribe's traditional leaders and elders understand restoration is necessary because of their ancestors' sacrifices to built it.
Languages that are lost in time
Hundreds of indigenous Australian languages are on the brink of extinction. Bill Edwards, from the University of South Australia, says language loss is a symptom of decaying Aboriginal cultures. "Languages with less than 10,000 speakers are particularly under threat and all the Aboriginal languages are well within that limit," Mr. Edwards said. Edwards also says traditional languages are an "identity marker" for Aboriginal people. "If we lose any language we are losing human understanding about the world. This is more than just a loss of words, it is a loss of intuition and a loss of understanding." Australian aboriginal languages have declined from more than 250 languages--with 350 dialects--to only 17 now regularly in use.
Florence Jones (1907-2003) Wintu
Florence Curl Jones, Wintu spiritual leader and healer, died six days before her 97th birthday. She was the most fluent speaker of the Winnemem Wintu language and was known as a "top doctor" by Native people throughout the western United States. Mrs. Jones was an expert on the plants of northern California and their traditional uses. Throughout her life she conducted ceremonies at the Winnemem Wintu's sacred sites on and around Mt. Shasta following a thousand-year tradition. She was recognized by her people, by elders of other tribes, and by archaeologists and anthropologists, as a uniquely gifted healer. Mrs. Jones was the subject of a documentary film, In the Light of
Reverence, which aired nationally on PBS in 2001.
One Man's Goal: For a Tribe to Pray in Its Own Language
Fewer than 600 people in the Passamaquoddys' indigenous land now speak Passamaquoddy ( pass-eh-meh-KWAD-ee). And of those who do, fewer still can pray in the language, in part because priests taught their ancestors most prayers in Latin or English. Allen Sockabasin, 58, is trying to change all that. Having already recorded translations of songs and poems from English to Passamaquoddy., he is now translating the rosary and recording it on compact discs. "It's really sad when a young person tells you he doesn't know how to pray," Mr. Sockabasin said. "It's sad when a native speaker feels like he doesn't know how to pray. In Indian country, its all made up as you go along." Sockabasin plans to distribute the CD to schools and churches in eastern Maine and the adjoining Canadian province, New Brunswick. Sockabasin has now recorded seven discs of translated poems, prayers and songs, including "Amazing Grace." He says he pays for his projects with donations and grants; the discs are free. The project is the first in which the prayers have been translated into the native language, professionally recorded (in a local studio) and distributed.
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