This past week, many Americans gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families, unconcerned with the ongoing violence against Native American families who are currently being stripped of their human rights in what has become another continuation of the genocide of Thanksgiving. Beginning on Tuesday, police and United States Army Corps sprayed protesters with water cannons and rubber bullets, according to various reports from Standing Rock.
This is an extreme human rights violation of indigenous people who deserve the respect of the people who stole their land. As we sat down to commemorate a mythical dinner between peaceful European settlers and Native Americans, we owe it to Standing Rock to stand in solidarity for their rights as American citizens.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has been protesting the construction of an oil pipeline across their land since a community forum in May, according to their timeline of events. But they have been frequently and violently removed from their land and attacked over the course of their peaceful protest.
The events of this protest have been minimally covered by mainstream television news sources such as CNN, Fox and MSNBC, who have instead spent the good part of the last year covering the catastrophic presidential election. The majority of protest coverage has been through alternative means like social media platforms and so-called advocacy journalism sites such like Democracy Now.
Our history textbooks are filled with the heroism of American leadership, carving out hero complexes for American colonizers whose actions were nowhere near heroic. This has led to the erasure of countless violations of Native American rights because they don’t fit into the heroic dialogue. The Trail of Tears was not named for the gracious gifting of land by the Native Americans to President Andrew Jackson. The truth is that the U.S. has spent the last 200 years continuously violating the human rights of Native Americans. Now that we’ve all taken our time to celebrate our families, we should give thanks to the water protectors at Standing Rock who are defending access to clean water for their community.
But this is not only a battle for natives. Though their population is dwindling in the U.S., they still stand for the protection of access to water, a crucial element in the control of native people around the world during colonialism. This Thanksgiving, my mother reminded me of why I owe it to the Standing Rock Sioux people to speak up. In India, the British kept control of the Indian people by cutting off their access to water and salt. In a heroic effort, the Indian people, led by Mahatma Gandhi, marched to the ocean in protest to make their own salt. This Dandi March got hundreds of Indian protesters arrested, but they believed it was worth the cost of freedom to free their own land. People of color across America have similar stories and we owe it to our ancestors to stand up for Standing Rock.
We can’t turn back time and give the entire continent back to Native Americans, but we can stop our country from taking away more than we already have from them. It is our job now to remember what we should truly be thankful for.