Got a Turkey for Thanksgiving this year? Thank an Indian!

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Got a Turkey for Thanksgiving this year? Thank an Indian! Got Land! God Bless an Indian!! Got Freedom? Know a Democracy? Practice Religion Freely? Know your History?

Thank an American Indian!

November is national American Indian Month and has been so since the turn of the century, from congressional representatives, to several congressional amendments, five presidents have called upon this "nation" to honor and pay tribute to the aboriginal peoples, cultures and "tribes" of the United States and Canada and in the 1980's included the Alaskan aboriginal communities as well.

After the 1970's, during the Panther and Chicano civil rights movements, the American Indian Movement aka AIM was founded and several legislators and a president decided to formally adopt November as Native American Heritage month. I do not know by what criteria this process was adopted to formalize this choice but it did so.

What does this really mean, designating a month to honor American Indian Heritage? I know the Irish drink and eat cabbage and beef and celebrate St. Patrick's day. The Italians organize big parades on Columbus day.

Then there is Thanksgiving in November. Was it the fact that a turkey dinner with muddled origins starting with the first pilgrims who landed on these shores, came hungry and not knowing the harsh New England winters, almost perished in their first season of survival and like a Hollywood movie, the American Indians came with their brain tanned, cedar smoked fine beaver pelts and otter furs to warm their bodies in coats and blankets and shoed them the first "immigrants" to hunt and trap, plant corn, squash and beans and dry and store them for winter foods and soups.

Many a public and private elementary school class enact the "FIRST THANKSGIVING" with children "Indians" and children "pilgrims" trading and sitting together sharing cookies and sweet corn chowder to remember those " good ole days" when Indians and Pilgrims were "friends."

Herein lies the challenge and gift of truth that could "set out minds free!" Especially in an educational environment where accurate information as it relates to "our" country and it's First Nations and our "early immigrant" pilgrims stepped onto these shores seeking political, religious and economic freedom from taxation in their respective lands in Europe.

It really should be a mandatory educational requirement in grade schools and high schools for students to learn actual history and not "Monday morning" recividistic history as it pertains to our nation and it's early founding.

The truth be said, the contributions of First Nations, indigenous or aboriginal cultures, peoples and tribes is a story and history worth sharing and learning. In fact, very little is shared about Native people and their cultures or history in early American History classes in high school or in colleges.

Some 80 percent of the foods we know of today in the world have their origin in the "New World." Our modern day pharmacopia comes from indigenous cultures and their

intimate knowledge of medicinal plants, herbs, barks, seeds, etc.

Our U.S. democracy does not have its roots in far away European countries like France, England, Spain or Greece but are homegrown and deeply entrenched in the First Nations alliances like the Iroquois Confederacy where there existed a strong 3 part decision making structure, a system of checks and balances that tribal leadership could include wisdom, safety and inclusion and input from the elders, warriors, medicine societies, and clan grandmothers. This 'democratic' process provided a real safeguard from any one chief or person taking complete control and power over others.

It is obvious to me that if the first visitors who came and met our aboriginal ancestors really understood and appreciated a Way of Life that honored creation and all beings. There may have been a huge turn in the road to a more nature friendly society and harmonious world where human beings live in peace and take notice of the impact on water, air, land, plants, animals, etc.

Alas, that did not happen and today, we have over population, war, famine, poverty and climate change.

There is still time and I do believe you can still reach and teach new puppies good bathroom manners. The old dogs will remain the old dogs but they will grow old and fade into the sunset too.

I would love to see a 're-connection' of the human beings based upon a very short Lakota prayer, "MITAKUYE OYACIN," meaning, WE ARE ALL RELATED!

If as a human species on this earth at this time, embrace this mantra during November, National Native American Month, how much more conscious we could

become as a couple, a family, a community, a nation, an earth, yes even as a universe!

So it is with my wife, Susan and I, now living in Bennington. A gateway to Vermont or as one local community official shared, "Vermont Begins Here!" How about Love and Compassion begins Here! Peace and Prosperity Begin Here!

To this end, Susan, I and some community members have put our good minds together and organized some Native American film screenings, lectures, photo

exhibits to engage the Bennington community about aboriginal cultures, histories, traditions that speak volumes about sustainable culture and living sustainably.

Or visit us at 522 Main St. the empty space next to the popular dining option, Allegro's. We have set up some culturally diverse and very educational and enlightening exhibits of American Indian culture, history, traditions, music, art, film and social media for young and old, for the literate, the curious and intelligent minds.

Our 10th Rock, Rattle and Drum Pow Wow demonstrated the hunger for diversity, cultural literacy and something real and authentic. Hot dogs and baseball are great spectator sports and I love my apple pie too like other fun loving Americans.

American culture has real roots and these roots exist nowhere else on the face of this planet but here in this land where my ancestors bones lie and many songs are still being sung by their descendants today.

I am thankful that I can feast on more than hot dogs, baseball and apple pie and am more grateful that many wonderful people are also hungry to know and

discover more of these histories, cultures, life values and traditions!

Fidel Moreno, Huichol/Mexican American, is a local activist and filmmaker.


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