Howdy facebook. How’s it hanging. As y’all surely know, it’s Thanksgiving in the U. S. this week. And if you’ve been around here much in the past, you might remember a little bit about what I think of Thanksgiving.
I’m taking a bit of a different track this year, and I wanna share about it and invite you to consider my words or even join me.
First, a babbly history: I grew up celebrating “pilgrims and indians” thanksgiving like most suburban white kids with their turkey hand drawings in the 80’s. With a tense and often bickering family environment, Thanksgiving was so quickly a soulless tradition or annoying obligation (how ameri-white can you get eh?). I don’t really recall having a genuine connection with it after childhood, other than a convenient excuse to force myself to connect with chosen family.
Over the years I have boycotted, half-heartedly participated, hosted orphans, and increasingly shared my dissent as I’ve learned more of the authentic origins of the holiday and how continuing to celebrate it harms people I have spent a lot of therapy money and cognitive effort as an oblivious privileged white person learning to actually care about.
My M.O. since radicalizing in 2014ish or so has generally been to water fast on Thanksgiving and fill my social media feeds with trauma porn about the origins of the feasting and how fucked up it is that we do it. You’ll be glad to know I’m (mostly) over that now, in part due to actually dipping my toe into legitimate advocacy by working with orgs like Duwamish Infrastructure Restoration Training – DIRT Corps and recognizing how deeply impactful the various Native therapies I’ve experienced have been to my personal life as well as my work.
Another big factor in letting go of that rage-stance has been my exploration of my gender identity (they/them), and how getting real about the origin of my binary brainwashing being centered in whiteness has allowed me to authentically connect with the ideals in Native culture in a personal way. Without that connection, all I felt entitled to interact with was the shameful anger of the bloodshed inflicted by my ancestors, so that’s what I signal boosted.
As a developing activist advocating indigenous rights and human person adopting basic indigenous principles into my anti-racism, someone who has worked with the Duwamish and learned from native healers, and someone who is privileged to celebrate my connections any day I chose, I feel it’s important for me to reject the holiday outright in my actions as well as my public talk.
Fasting may seem pointless, and I’ve wondered sometimes what greater good lied in my time during Thanksgiving while hanging out in a van alone and starving myself; whether it was simply selfish and personal or more than that or just self destructive.
As a political/community artist, I understand the value of documenting personal praxis in a performative way. One of the things that I write about in The Book are my personal experiments and what makes them legitimate artwork and not just self-help advice: Year of the Nee in 2014 (of which I spent a year weening from romantic relationships, drugs, alcohol, and sex), W.A.S.T.E. in 2009 (in which I kept my recycling in my living space with me for months), etc.
My Thanksgiving fasts have been this sort of art for me, and I do think, when presented in conjunction with others, they are valid outside of myself. While I think it may be best to stop fasting as a means of reverence because I’ve developed such disordered eating in my last year of vanlife that it’s much more risky for my health now, I’m proud of those years in which I fasted, talked about fasting on social media, and sat with and communicated with my hunger as a means to process the reality of Thanksgiving. This year, perhaps for the last time (?), I’d like to fast again.
Which brings me to my invitation: Wanna fast with me this Thanksgiving? There are multiple elements to my approach, which I expect to expand annually if I get other people on board:
1) Water fast for the day of Thanksgiving (this is the “accountability” commitment) – Including peer-based aftercare support for the fasting to help ourselves as a group continue to healthy eating habits after going a day without food (I will personally need this from my community to continue Thanksgiving fasting in a way that does not endanger my health)
2) Funnel the money I would have spent on Thanksgiving food into a one-time donation directly to my local Duwamish and Puyallup tribes (even if it’s just a couple bucks).
3) If I’m active on social media at the time, post at least 2 local call-to-action Native advocacy resources on each of my social media accounts on Thanksgiving day. Post historical and cultural educational content about those tribes as well.
4) If a local group forms (I’m based in Tacoma now), work to create a meetup event in nature for next year, and include resources used in social media posts as lit for meatspace gatherings.
I am considering creating a group of some sort, preferably NOT using facebook, for event planning and information sharing. My idea for this is to include a national online element as well as a local in person one, though this year I expect I’m approaching this too late for a local gathering.
I anticipate most participants to be white because that’s my lane and this is our work, however anyone who is interested is welcome to participate.
If you’d like to be looped into the development of this project, comment here with the word DECOLONIZE and I’ll make sure to include you in whatever list/group/discord/slack channel or whatever the fuck it ends up being. And if you wanna participate virtually in some way this Thursday, let m know how.
Thanks for taking the long read. Also note that I have a post pinned to my artist page right now to a fabulous writeup if you want to delve in more, and many links supplied in the comments if you’re interested in supporting Natives this week.
National Day of Mourning is nearly upon us, and CHRISTINE NOBISS of www.seedingsovereignty.org has done a great service to those of us seeking to resist the colonial gaslighting that is Thanksgiving. https://www.bustle.com/p/thanksgiving-promotes-whitewashed-history-so-i-organized-truthsgiving-instead-13154470
NON-LOCAL ADVOCACY: If food justice is your thing (For instance, if you were enraged by the new SNAP benefit changes and think people on food assistance deserve fresh food), then you should know about food availability on reservations and what Queer Appalachia and @ndn.o are up to: https://www.facebook.com/QueersnAppalachia/posts/2060243613997313
EDUCATION: THE SUPPRESSED SPEECH OF WAMSUTTA (FRANK B.) JAMES, WAMPANOAG
To have been delivered at Plymouth, Massachusetts, 1970
EDUCATION: The Duwamish people of the inside still exist. You can visit their longhouse, attend events, sign up to their mailing list, among other things at https://www.duwamishtribe.org/
And here is their wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duwamish_people
EDUCATION: REAL CHANGE, a publication that I support whenever I have cash in my pocket (and I hope you will too), published this about the Duwamish in 2016 https://www.realchangenews.org/2016/11/09/duwamish-tribe-continues-160-year-fight-federal-recognition
DONATIONS: The Duwamish tribe has created http://realrentduwamish.org as a pathway for Seattlites and other supporters to pay reparations, and is a way you can impact the lives of those whose land we settled despite the federal government’s 160 years of refusing the tribe their rights. I pay real rent myself and encourage every Seattlite to do so as well.
DIRECT ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION: DIRT CORPS, a restoration training program I worked with in 2016/2017, works closely with the Duwamish tribe while restoring wetlands in Georgetown, White Center and South Park; areas most impacted by industrialization and training local communities, and they are regularly in search of volunteers.