This is the day after Thanksgiving. It is Black Friday and Native American Heritage Day. It is a day, for some, of manic consumerism and for others, especially the Natives of this land, it is “the National Day of Mourning.” Which came first, the consumerism or the mourning? Consumerism is a relatively new word. It can mean that the system of buying (and selling) is good for the economy. It can also mean protecting the rights of those who do buy. Some say Black Friday refers to retailers getting out of the red and into the black from the holiday buying patterns and profits. It could be called Profit Day and Great Deals Day. It could also be called Glorify Greed Day. I think it’s the greed that comes first and then it is the mourning that is a natural response to so many losses.
President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a holiday in 1863 in the middle of the Civil War, a war that led to the end of slavery; slaves being the stolen natives of another continent. Thanksgiving is associated with some of the Natives of Eastern North America. It has become a g-rated version of our history with Natives. I say “our history” because I identify with the European ancestors who came to this continent and invaded it between 1513 and 1765. I am a “white”, mostly Irish/American, 59 year old woman. I have lived according to this cultures’ rules and assumptions, often unconsciously. I say “Natives” instead of Native Americans because I associate America and Americans with a more modern stereotype of it. The Native People were here before “America” was named. Their history predates ours in this land and yet, in a sense, we say that we welcome “them” into the culture we’ve created here. “They” are one of “us”.
I think the ultimate goal of an evolving society is that we live identifying with each other while respecting and honoring the differences. And there a lots of differences. We are all human and need to foster that essential, living, breathing bond between us, but in my spirit, respect is due to those who lived with and tamed the land before the Europeans came. They knew about the cost of survival in nature. They taught much. Some have survived and honor their roots. Some of their ancestors taught Europeans how to survive, too. Not all Europeans were greedy and violent, but enough were to displace, infect, maim, murder and addict some of the Native People. That is something to mourn over for both sides.