Thoughts with Richard Bleil
Please allow me to open up by wishing you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. I do hope that you are with family, friends and loved ones and enjoying the day.
Personally, I cannot have a Thanksgiving without thinking about the Native Americans. I have always viewed Thanksgiving as the one day that we were kind to the Native people before murdering them for their land. It may sound harsh, but there it is.
In Florida, Governor DeSantis would try to have me arrested for writing things such as this. He enacted a law (which was thankfully struck down as of the writing of this post) that made it illegal for teachers and professors to teach anything that could make people feel uncomfortable or guilty about their cultural heritage. In a statement, he suggested the law was to protect from indoctrination by the “radical left” and the “woke” culture. Unfortunately, this “woke” culture is basically the truth, a truth that has been glossed over (if covered at all) by the revisionist history books and professors from when I grew up, a culture of history classes that make it seem as if the US never participated in any human rights atrocities, and never did anything remotely wrong.
The reality is that we must acknowledge, and understand, these very atrocities to truly understand how it is that we came to be where we are at, and to avoid having them occur again. Yes, slavery was a real thing in America. White men profited on it and became wealthy as slaves were tortured to the point of death by their “owners”.
Today, fascists are on the rise, calling for an end to democracy. Their candidate, a sitting president, did not win the election to remain in power, so he called for an insurrection to stop the Constitutionally mandated process to transition and bring in a new president. That president befriended dictators and fascists around the world, tried to squelch the freedom of the press and free speech, and led in human rights violations. Today, his followers are fighting against certain books being available in libraries, and insist on “alternative points of view” to any new ideas or approaches in teaching history or sociology, never recognizing that the way these subjects have been taught in the past is that “alternative point of view” that they want. This makes the new “woke” approach the alternative point of view. Or, perhaps they do recognize it but won’t acknowledge it.
When settlers made it to the new world, yes, there were warlike Native American tribes out there, and no, they were not friendly, but the reality is that the vast majority of Native Americans were friendly and peace loving. These Native peoples actually helped the settlers to survive, something that we are celebrating, or supposed to celebrate, on Thanksgiving. They had more than enough strength to push back and keep the settlers from ever making off of the beach, and yet they allowed them in. When the settlers had trouble growing their crops, the Native people taught the settlers how to “give back” to “Mother Earth” by planting fish heads in their corn crops, something the Native people took to be spiritual but ultimately providing nutrients for the crops to grow.
The greatest issue were the cultural differences. Down south, the Aztecs and the Mayans built great permanent city-forts that were permanent, but here in the Northern Americas, the Native people were nomadic. They did not build permanent structures and relocated from place to place with the buffalo and their food sources. There is a story about how the settlers purchased Manhattan for a handful of beans. I’m guessing that this was more apocryphal than historical, but even if it is completely true, it just exemplifies these cultural differences. If it happened that way, there is a good chance that the Native people assumed that the trade was for them to migrate off of the land for a time with the expectation that, once the settlers left, then they could migrate back on. The settlers, on the other hand, because stripping Mother Earth of her trees in Manhattan to build permanent structures that could not move.
Hundreds of years of war that followed resulted in the near annihilation of the Native populations and decimation of their culture. The loss of their cultural identities has been pointed to as a reason for the very high suicide rate among the Native youth. Today the Supreme Court is considering a case that could once again make the Native people vulnerable to abduction and indoctrination into white culture by federal agents. This war continues, in one way or another, today. It is worth remembering this as we celebrate the feast harvest of the very first Thanksgiving.