At Groundswell Center, our mission requires delving into the intersections of sustainable farming, justice and equity. We’re constantly exploring our role in this work, both as an organization and also individuals. The upcoming holiday centers on giving thanks, on gratitude, on abundant harvest – such a beautiful tradition. Yet, the holiday is also built upon the deaths of as many as 30 million native people and the appropriation of native foods (Nearly 70 percent of all crops grown today were originally cultivated by Native American peoples).
As we approach Thanksgiving, the question arises – Do we celebrate? Do we atone?
Perhaps we start by honoring the land we live on. The land here in the Central New York was owned, cultivated and loved by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Six nations of Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Tuscarora and Seneca. When the Europeans arrived in the 1600’s, the Iroquois people gave freely; caring for the colonizers and sharing their crops. And yet, theirs is an ongoing history of resistance in light of centuries of genocide and oppression that is still present today.
Can we honor this at our Thanksgiving tables?
The Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address thanks the natural world and each life-sustaining force within it. Thanks is given by teaching “mutual respect, conservation, love, generosity, and the responsibility to understand that what is done to one part of the Web of Life, we do to ourselves.”
Can you apply one of these teachings to the actions of your week?
Joanna Macy is quoted saying “until we can grieve for our planet we cannot love it—grieving is a sign of spiritual health. But it is not enough to weep for our lost landscapes; we have to put our hands in the earth to make ourselves whole again. Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair.” (a quote from Braiding Sweetgrass)
May your Thanksgiving be abundant and joyful, and may we fully honor the history of this land and all that it teaches us.