In a unique and wonderful arrangement, Temple Beth Emeth and St Clare’s Episcopal Church co-own their building at 2309 Packard (a corporation entitled “Genesis”). Annually they hold a joint service to celebrate Thanksgiving. We are grateful to Patricia Anderson, a member of Temple Beth Emeth, who wrote the following acknowledgment of indigenous peoples at this time of giving thanks.
We acknowledged with respect the Niswi Ishkodewan Anishinaabeg (Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ), the Three Fires People (including Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi/Bodéwadmiakiwen), their neighbors the Peoria and the Meškwahki·aša·hina (Fox) nations, the indigenous peoples on whose ancestral lands Genesis of Ann Arbor now stands.
This Thanksgiving, we remember stories we learned as children about the first Thanksgiving, in 1621; about the Pilgrims, settlers, and ‘the Indians.’ It’s a story that will be 400 years old next year; a story about generosity, collaboration, and building community. It’s a story that has largely been sanitized and told in ways to make white people feel good about themselves and what happened, and their historic relationships with the Native American peoples. The same story has a very different impact when heard from the perspective of the Native American people themselves, and it often doesn’t serve to help them feel good about themselves or their relationship with the colonizers.
In 1620, the Pilgrims settled into a Wampanoag village that had been abandoned 4-5 years earlier following a plague brought by European traders, a plague which had killed 2/3s of the 50-100 thousand people already living there, with many others captured by the traders and sold as slaves. The Pilgrims were seen as different than the traders, however, because they brought their wives and children. The Wampanoag showed the settlers how to forage, how to farm, how to survive. Today, the Wampanoag number between 4,000 and 5,000. In the 1970 suppressed speech by Wamsutta James in honor of the 350th anniversary of that first Thanksgiving, he reminded all, “We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end.”
Right now, with the pandemic, we worry about bringing into our homes friends, family, and loved ones to celebrate with us, because they may also bring in a virus, illness, disability, or death. We worry that whoever visits us over the coming holidays may bring with them “the beginning of the end.” There is a certain irony here, one that is quite visible to the perceptions of many of our Native American neighbors.
We say the words, “We acknowledge with respect,” but are we who live here now truly being respectful of the gifts and losses of the people who shared their lands with us? It was suggested that perhaps, as a small gesture of respect, of thanks beyond the words of acknowledgement, some of us may wish to make a contribution to local organizations that support Native American communities in Michigan with food and other resources.
- American Indian Health & Family Services of Southeastern MI, Inc.: <https://www.aihfs.org/donate.html>
- Dynamite Hills Farm GoFund Me: <https://www.gofundme.com/f/zhaawenimishinaam>
- Michigan Indian Elders: <https://www.michiganindianelders.org/donate.php>
- Native Food Alliance: <https://nativefoodalliance.org/get-involved/>
If you wish to learn more about the stories mentioned above, …..these are good places to start.
- Smithsonian Institute: American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving <https://americanindian.si.edu/sites/1/files/pdf/education/thanksgiving_poster.pdf>
- The Suppressed Speech of Wamsutta (Frank B.) James, Wampanoag. To have been delivered at Plymouth, Massachusetts, 1970 <http://www.uaine.org/suppressed_speech.htm>