Rethinking U.S. National Holidays

The Native Organizers Alliance (NOA) is guided by traditional values, helping to build the organizing capacity of tribes, organizers, and community groups for transformational policy change. NOA is a traditionally organized, ever-growing circle of Native-led movements, communities, and groups. It empowers Native leaders and activists by providing a platform for collaboration, educating the public, and building meaningful relationships with non-Native allies.

NOA states that Native communities have always found ways to come together to share joy and to give thanks through community organizing and reciprocity. From harvest feasts and green corn festivals to powwows and tribal dances – showing gratitude is an important and integral part of Indigenous life and our relationships.

During Thanksgiving the NOA invites people to help dispel the myth of the “first Thanksgiving” and its silence about genocide and systemic racism. Instead, learn the history of Native peoples and how much they have overcome to remain a resilient and vibrant part of cultural and political life today.

During November’s American Heritage Month, NOA celebrated some important moments in Indian Country, including:

  • The first Summit of Tribal Nations since 2016,
  • Chuck Sams (Cayuse and Walla Walla) making history as the first Native American confirmed to lead the National Park Service after 150 years since the establishment of national parks that were seized from Native communities, and  
  • Consideration of a 20-year withdrawal of federal lands within a 10-mile radius around Chaco Culture National Historical Park, which would bar new federal oil and gas leasing on those lands.

NOA is grateful for the progress these policy shifts reflect and mindful of the critical role that Native Organizers Alliance plays in organizing grassroots political power. NOA states that knowing the power of Native values and walking a spiritual path toward social change is the only way to fulfill Native ancestral responsibilities.

Chief Oren Lyons - Native America and The Roots of American Democracy - Hundreds of years before the arrival of Europeans to North America the Haudenosaunee or “Iroquois Confederacy” formed a democratic government that brought lasting peace to the Northeast and was later used  by the Continental Congress as a model for the US Constitution. In a TED talk, Chief Oren Lyons sheds light on how this democracy functioned and its relevance to our strained democracy today.
Hear his reflections at:

Tracing the Roots of California Ecocide and Seeking the Fruits of Repentance 
The webinar traces the connections between the ecological crisis in the state of California and the attempted genocide and removal of Indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands. Christian denominations are beginning to acknowledge and seek to make amends for the role of the Church in sanctioning this destruction under the Doctrine of Discovery. At the same time, a growing environmental justice movement is recognizing that Indigenous ecological knowledge is essential for land conservation. Creation Justice highlights examples of conservation efforts led by Indigenous groups in California, and offers opportunities for faith communities to come together in support of these initiatives.  

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition provides a history of Native American Boarding Schools.
Beginning with the Indian Civilization Act Fund of March 3, 1819 and the Peace Policy of 1869 the United States, in concert with and at the urging of several denominations of the Christian Church, adopted an Indian Boarding School Policy expressly intended to implement cultural genocide through the removal and reprogramming of American Indian and Alaska Native children to accomplish the systematic destruction of Native cultures and communities. The stated purpose of this policy was to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.”
Between 1869 and the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of Native American children were removed from their homes and families and placed in boarding schools operated by the federal government and the churches. Though we don't know how many children were taken in total, by 1900 there were 20,000 children in Indian boarding schools, and by 1925 that number had more than tripled. The U.S. Native children that were voluntarily or forcibly removed from their homes, families, and communities during this time were taken to schools far away where they were punished for speaking their native language, banned from acting in any way that might be seen to represent traditional or cultural practices, stripped of traditional clothing, hair and personal belongings and behaviors reflective of their native culture. They suffered physical, sexual, cultural and spiritual abuse and neglect, and experienced treatment that in many cases constituted torture for speaking their Native languages. Many children never returned home and their fates have yet to be accounted for by the U.S. government. Read the publication

The Case for Reparations: Cal Task Force Hears Painful Personal, Family Stories 
California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals took an expansive but deeply personalized look at the history of Slavery, racial violence and injustice in America and traced how that past still shapes how we live now. 

1491: Rewriting the History Before Columbus – Author, Charles C. Mann, discusses his book and sheds light on the complex and interconnected civilizations that actually existed in the Americas prior to Columbus and how they were profoundly changed by his arrival.

Lee Brown – Native American Indian Prophecies
Native Americans have been one of the most actively oppressed and often ignored groups in U.S. history. We all have much to gain from beginning to understand their cultures and collective story. In a 20 minute talk, Lee Brown (Cherokee) discusses traditional Native American prophecies that reveal an indigenous perspective on the unfoldment of history, the consequences of segregation of the “races” and the need for humanity to come together in order to survive and prosper.
Partial transcript of Lee Brown’s talk:

Posted by: S. Jean Schafer

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