What are you thankful for? It's nearing the commercial holiday season, Thanksgiving and Christmas, once again. The reasons for the commercial part is that holidays are no longer celebrated, just the products that can be sold to consumers before and after those days. When was the first celebration of Thanksgiving in this area of the world? We know that it was not 1621. What is the truth behind the so-called First Thanksgiving and its significance in this present day? The following is a selection from Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James Loewen: The true history of Thanksgiving reveals embarrassing facts. The Pilgrims did not introduce the tradition; Eastern Indians had observed autumnal harvest celebrations for centuries. Although George Washington did set aside days for national Thanksgiving, our modern celebrations date back only to 1863. During the Civil War, when the Union needed all the patriotism that such an observance might muster, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday. The Pilgrims had nothing to do with it; not until the 1890s did they even get included in the tradition. For that matter, no one used the term Pilgrims until the 1870s.

Now, let's move to the present day. Indigenous peoples in this country and around the world are still facing extermination culturally and physically by governments that wish not to acknowledge their existence and their sovereignty as Nations of People. However, they have resisted and survived and continue to do so. In the past, the U.S. government created Indian schools with the sole purpose of transforming Native American children into white children, thus stripping them of their identity and separating them from their past, present and future. You may make the argument that those types of schools are a thing of the past, or are they? Are not formal educational institutions using the same technique, but extending it to all people? What are your plans after graduation, working to extend the capitalist system and the ideals of individualism and exploitation in a corporation, business or government agency? Or are your plans to learn from the indigenous peoples of the world who have never believed in the unsustainable traditions of imperialism/capitalism? Do you plan to start reconnecting with yourself and with the earth as well? What does this have to do with education? The so-called dominant or mainstream culture determines education, in this country, and thus the language of that culture is seen as superior and more important than the others. How many of you believe that English is the superior language?

In the recent election in Arizona, Proposition 203 was passed which: Requires that all public school instruction be conducted in English. Children not fluent in English shall normally be placed in an intensive one-year English immersion program to teach them the language as quickly as possible while also learning academic subjects. Parents may request a waiver of these requirements for children who already know English, are ten years or older, or have special needs best suited to a different educational approach. Normal foreign language programs are completely unaffected. Enforcement lawsuits by parents and guardians are permitted. (From the Arizona ballot.) The American English language is a composite of languages from all around the world. Who does that proposition hurt? It hurts all of us indirectly and directly. Children who are Navajo, Tohono O'odham, Latino, Korean, Chinese or other peoples will no longer be learning their language, an important part of understanding their culture. They will learn English in schools so they will not be continuing the traditions of their cultures. Who will carry on their cultural traditions, if it is not the current generation of children?

I'll leave you with the following selection of a speech by Winona LaDuke, Green Party vice-presidential candidate and a member of the Mississippi Band of the White Earth Anishinabeg reservation in northern Minnesota, entitled: To the Women of the World: Our Future, Our Responsibility: If we are to seek and struggle for common ground of all women, it is essential to struggle this issue. For, it is not frankly, that the women of the dominant society in so called first world countries should have equal pay, and equal status, if that pay and status continues to be based on a consumption model which is not only unsustainable, but causes constant violation of the human rights of women and nations elsewhere in the world. It is essential to collectively struggle to recover our status as Daughters of the Earth. In that is our strength, and the security, not in the predator, but in the security of our Mother, for our future generations. In that we can insure our security as the Mothers of our Nations.

Irucka Ajani Embry can be reached at iembry@utk.edu and is thankful for all life in each universe.

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