National American Indian Heritage Month

President’s Message- Susan Marrinan

“The warrior is not what you think….The warrior, for us, is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others…..”  Sitting Bull, Hunkpapa Lakota (1831-1890). Indian agency police killed him on the Standing Rock Reservation. 

Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks for the food on our table. As children, we learned the story of the first Thanksgiving. In 1621, William Bradford, Governor of Massachusetts, invited the Massasoit, including the Wampanoag, to join the pilgrims in celebrating the Fall harvest.  The Wampanoag had helped the pilgrims grow the crops to harvest, and the harvest meant the settlers could survive another winter.  We cut out paper pilgrims, Indians, and turkeys to decorate our homes in memory of this occasion. We invite family and friends to join us.   

What no one taught us was what happened after that first feast in 1621. The settlers turned on the Wampanoag, who had helped them survive, taking their land, enslaving, and massacring the tribe. Greed consumed gratitude.   

In 1990, our government designated November as National American Indian Heritage Month. This recognition provides an opportunity to examine our past and current relationship with the American Indian tribes and study our history.

It brings the myth of the pilgrims and the Indians into focus and offers opportunities for reconciliation. American Indians do not celebrate Thanksgiving Day. For American Indians, every day is a day to give thanks to the creator, but the Thanksgiving Day holiday is a day of mourning.     

They mourn the loss of lands they occupied for 1000s of years, the loss of their people through genocide, forced assimilation, relocation and displacement on reservations, and the government removal of Indian children who were sent to boarding school and forbidden to speak their languages. Native Americans have the highest poverty rate of any major racial group; one in four live below the poverty line.    

Conditions on many reservations mirror those in third-world countries with high crime rates, high rates of alcoholism, suicide, and unemployment. Some Indian children are hungry and bitterly cold as winter approaches. Unemployment is rampant.  

When Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed into San Diego Bay in 1542, he encountered native peoples numbering over 20,000, peacefully fishing, gathering clams and abalone. Today, approximately 26,340 American Indians live in San Diego County. Their reservations are not on the beach. As the White population grew, the new settlers forced the native Americans inland.  Currently, the major tribal groups are Luiseno, Cahuilla, Cupeno, Kumeyaay, and Northern Diegueno. San Diego has more reservations than any other county in the United States.  The reservation land holdings are small: 193 miles out of the county’s 4205.  Native Americans constitute .80% of the population of Coronado.   

It has been 400 years since the first Thanksgiving. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just released a 2021 November monthly jobs report.  Guess which demographic is missing and has been missing every month?  Yes, American Indians. They are left out of essential discussions regarding the economic recovery even though the pandemic has hit them the hardest.   

After 400 years of displacement, decimation, and marginalization, the endurance of native Americans is awe-inspiring. Their strength in the face of such adversity is a model of courage. Our country really is the home of the brave….we just don’t notice them much.  

To learn more, you may want to consider the Resource List provided by InclusioNado.  (Link to Resource List) 

View the video about Wounded Knee