The next step of healing is investing. For some, that means donating to Native organizations. This year I started the Liberated Capital fund, a giving circle that supports Indigenous and other people-of-color-led initiatives working for transformative social change. But for others, it could be as simple as supporting Native-owned businesses such as Ginew, Trickster, and Bedré. It also means divesting from organizations and companies that hurt Native communities, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline. The final step of this healing process is to repair. Reparations are the ultimate way to build power in exploited communities. For Native Americans, that means ensuring land and water rights, returning sacred ancestral lands, and providing adequate resources to our communities. This includes giving Indigenous communities full property rights on our reservations, rather than letting the government hold them “in trust,” preventing us from putting the land to use by selling it, buying more, or borrowing against it. When we all take these steps to heal, we can both address the harms of the past, and stop the cycle of harm that continues because of the lasting legacy of colonization. It’s a process that requires the collective involvement of our country as a whole. This Thanksgiving, I encourage everyone to take time and begin this process of healing—recognize the hurt that was caused by colonization in order to bridge colonial divides and look forward to a new and more equitable future.
On the right side of this old newspaper clipping is an article about a group of Native students from Wesleyan College in CT going to Plymouth to hold their own thanksgiving day protest in 1969, the year BEFORE the first #NationalDayOfMourning! #NDOM2019 #Thankstaking pic.twitter.com/fRtV8RTIgg— ndnviewpoint (@mahtowin1) November 27, 2019
Though it seems counterintuitive, embarking on our own healing process as settlers helps us bridge the colonial gap. This Thanksgiving, I recommend groups of settler friends and families acknowledge their settlerhood out loud to each other, followed by a prayer or a moment of silence. Around the Thanksgiving table, ask questions. Where did your people come from, and why? What types of oppression or poverty did your family face in the time before and during migration? Did your ancestors choose to leave behind beloved lands, families, languages and cultures, or were they forced? Prepare some of your ancestral foods for the Thanksgiving feast. Honoring our settler ancestors can restore their humanity, which in some cases was compromised through dehumanizing acts of colonization and enslavement. Beginning this Thanksgiving, and continuing throughout the year, settlers can learn which First Nations previously and currently inhabit the land on which they live and gather. Honor the Indigenous ancestors, as well as their surviving descendants. Among family and friends, share Indigenous stories and histories. When settlers commit to our own process of healing and decolonization, it becomes possible to build bridges toward Indigenous peoples and communities. We can seek opportunities to visit Indigenous-organized events and spaces, listening far more than we speak, believing what we hear, and allowing ourselves to be quietly affected by what we observe. It is not the task of European-descended settlers to become white saviors and “fix” colonial damage within Indigenous communities. But, we can learn to join in solidarity by supporting the work already being envisioned and led within Indigenous communities. Follow Diné speaker Lyla June Johnston’s guiding question: “How (if at all) can I help?” Listen and act accordingly. Sharing food, handshakes, and conversation creates the universal human glue of empathy and compassion. Cultivating relationships across difference facilitates our ability to invest resources, time, and energy in Indigenous communities, and generates the collective will to make reparations. When we build bridges from the ashes of the colonial gap, the ensuing relationships are things for which we can really be grateful at Thanksgiving and beyond.
"No Thanks, No Giving": The United American Indians of New England is hosting the 50th National Day of Mourning on Thursday. #NDOM2019 #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth #NativeAmericanGenocideMonth #NativeAmerican #Thanksgiving @mahtowin1 #Massachusetts https://t.co/FgtOM7JZRv— indianz.com (@indianz) November 26, 2019
Edgar Villanueva and Hilary Giovale wrote this for YES! Magazine. Edgar is vice president of programs and advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education and the author of "Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance.” Hilary is a community organizer, philanthropist, and author of a forthcoming ethnoautobiography about her process of decolonizing and healing from whiteness.
Note: This article originally appeared on YES! Magazine. It is published under a Creative Commons license.