Spare a thought during Thanksgiving for the original citizens of Turtle Island – By Mohamed Hamaludin

– By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

It was nearly 400 years after English colonists arrived at Turtle Island, as natives call the land that would later become the United States of America.

Every year, some members of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe in South Dakota ride horses or run on a 300-mile pilgrimage to Mankato, Minnesota. The Crow Creek Sioux are descended from the Mdewakanton Dakota Tribe and the journey commemorates the United States government’s hanging of 38 Crow Creek tribesmen on Dec. 26, 1862. It was the largest mass execution ever carried out and came at the end of the U.S.-Dakota War. Last year, after taking part in the 13th annual Dakota 38 Memorial ride, J’von Justice Shields, 17, a star football player, killed himself. His was not an isolated case of Native American suicide.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in March last year that the has been rising since at least 2003 to 21.5 per 100,000 now — “more than 3.5 times higher than those among racial/ethnic groups with the lowest rates.” Around 35.7 percent of them are aged 10 to 24, compared with 11.1 percent for whites.       

The reason? Factors that include “coping with historical trauma and a loss of culture that can result in feelings of shame and isolation,” the Associated Press said, citing Dale Walker, a psychiatrist and a Cherokee, who runs a research center that studies mental health among Native Americans at the Oregon Health & Science University.

There is a lot of “historical trauma.” J’von died nearly 150 years after the killing of the Dakota 38 and more than 180 years after the 1,200-mile “Trail of Tears” forced relocation of Native Americans driven off their land, during which more than 5,000 Cherokees perished, History.com reported.

It was nearly 400 years after English colonists arrived at Turtle Island, as natives call the land that would later become the United States of America.

Native Americans were driven off natural resources-rich land. David Grann recounted in his book, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” the swindlers and murderers that robbed the Osage Nation in Oklahoma of their oil wealth at a time when they were the richest people in the world on a per capita basis. They have endured mass sterilization, separation of children from families and the ravages of diseases. The Washington Post reported in May that the number of Native Americans, estimated at between 2.1 million and 18 million at the peak, declined to about 250,000 in the 1890s. They currently number around 6.7 million, belonging to 562 tribes. Seven in 10 live off reservations and 72 percent live in urban and suburban areas, the Guardian reported in 2017. There is also a sizeable group of African-Indians, one of whom was Crispus Attucks, the first person to die in the Independence war, as well as several contemporary celebrities, as recounted in the documentary “Black Indians – An American Story.”

Native Americans, too, are victims of hate crimes and police brutality. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, two teenagers shot and killed Ronnie Ross, a homeless Navajo man, just “for fun.” Three teenagers beat to death Allison Gorman and Kee Thompson as they slept and a murderer decapitated Audra Willis on the city’s east side. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that “Native Americans are killed in police encounters at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group.” Guardian columnist Belen Fernandez cited that statistic in a commentary on Aug. 9, 2018, marking International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

Also, the National Crime Information Center reported that more than 5,700 American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls had been reported missing as of 2016. CBS News cited that finding in a story marking National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native American Women.

There are also the false depictions of Native Americans, notably the story of Pocahontas. Contrary to popular belief, she did not fall in love with John Smith, did not save him from a terrible death and did not marry him and have children with him.

Then there is Thanksgiving. No, it is not a tradition dating back to a happy time of Native Americans and newly arrived English colonists sitting down to a meal of turkey, cranberry and pumpkin pie. John Schilling wrote in Indian Country Today that it originated after the body of a colonist was found in a boat in Plymouth in 1636. A Major John Mason led soldiers on a rampage against the neighboring Pequot tribe, who were blamed for the man’s death, killing 400 Pequot men, women and children. William Newell, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, issued the following proclamation: “From that day forth, shall be a day of celebration and thanks giving for subduing the Pequots.” For the next 100 years, Schilling said, every Thanksgiving Day honored celebrated the massacre and praised God for the victory.

There are indeed many reasons to be thankful that there is a place called the United States of America, not the least being the guarantee of individual rights and freedoms. But Thanksgiving should also be a time to reflect on those who suffered grievously — and those who still do — from the tragic events that happened during the journey to nationhood. The indigenous people of Turtle Island are high on the list.

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who  worked for several years at The Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating to the United States in 1984 where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every week or two for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

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Comments

  • Kman  On December 3, 2019 at 10:09 am

    Yes, God bless America, MAGA .

    The world should all stand against America, boycott, ban, sanction,etc. and let us see how they would like it. It won’t happen because most of the world leaders are in bed with theUS, or have no gonads!

    • Emanuel  On December 3, 2019 at 1:19 pm

      First, I want to thank the author for sharing the true meaning of Thanksgiving in Turtle Island. It is important to know the facts and origins of major events.

      The British committed mass genocides all over the world and what they did in Turtle Island and elsewhere without accountability is shameful.

      Kman, your comment is disgraceful and crazy
      . That MAGA logo is offensive and racist to the core but you’re too dense to see it. Over all, your comment makes no sense. It is written as if from a man who had too much rum the night before .

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