Myths surround and inform our existence. From the myth of the American Dream to the myth of how George Washington cannot tell a lie. In many, subtle ways they imbue our subconscious with the values and ideals of American society. However, many, if not all, of those values and ideals are oppressive. Because this country was founded on colonialism and the backs of brown and black people, the values and ideals that spring up from that foundation are bound to be rotten. From the ideal that hard work always pays off (you can ask the people on the Rez if thats true) to the value of profit over people, its obvious that the framework that America operates under is flawed.
Much of the work that we do challenges and attempts to transform those ideals. We use a variety of tactics to ameliorate the damages that those ideals cause, such as create community centers, get stolen wages back, and provide free therapy. We used education and leadership engagement to enlighten folks to the reality of the world we live in and give them the tools to change it. Which in turn leads to a lot of work to create change systemically so that those direct services are less necessary, such as direct action, protests, and grassroots organizing. We use those tactics to create a more equitable world. And while many of these address the underlying issues that cause inequity, I believe that we a missing an important element. That is, we aren’t challenging the framework, the myths, that inform and support the inequitable society that we live in.
How, then, do we challenge that framework?
We challenge this framework by challenging and changing the myths that inform that framework.
Take, for example, the myth of Thanksgiving. The myth states that sometime in November the pilgrims had a grand feast, back when the pilgrims were new arrivals, and invited the Natives. They threw this feast because they were thankful for the Native people for teaching them how to survive in their new and harsh environment. They joined together in peace and harmony and parted as friends, in happy coexistence.
The reality is that, after the Civil War, Lincoln wanted a holiday that would bring people together, especially a holiday that would help reintegrate the North and the South. So, he produced the Thanksgiving myth to foster a sense of community. However, its clear that the “event” that inspired Thanksgiving is a fabrication. Did Native people help out the pilgrims when they first landed here? Maybe. But despite that, the pilgrims were harbingers of a colonization and genocide of those Native people. A colonization and genocide that is still going on to this day. And it is essential that we recognize that. Otherwise, this false ideal of “everyone can just get along” will be given currency when its clear that oppressed people cannot “get along” with colonizers because of that history of colonization.
So, how do we reclaim Thanksgiving? We must first recognize that we can’t divorce the holiday from its history; indeed we can’t divorce anything from its history because it is that history that gives the thing form. Instead, we need to acknowledge that history and endeavor to change it, moving forward. In the case of Thanksgiving, we can say that the holiday is about getting together with queer familia and not about pilgrims and Native people. We can say that Thanksgiving is about the radical action of gratitude, because capitalism has taught us to always want more, more, more. We can say that it is about honoring our madre tierra for supporting and sustaining us. In short, it can be about whatever we want it to be, as long as we remember the history.