Today is always a complicated day for me and I hope you will join me for a moment of reflection. As you may know, I am Oglala Lakota and Northern Cheyenne from the Pine Ridge and Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservations. As a Native American woman, today is not a day of giving thanks. Most of us who were educated in Western schools were taught that today acknowledges the “Native Americans” saving the lives of the “Pilgrims,” by teaching them how to garden and hunt. They then supposedly shared a meal together, which was the predecessor of the Thanksgiving meal most Americans share today.
That is not what happened and that is not what today represents for me. Today is instead a painful reminder that the colonization, militarization, attempted genocide of my people is ongoing. It marks the beginning of a season of remembering the numerous massacres that Native Peoples have faced since contact. Today I remember the Wampanoag People who shared their Indigenous Ecological Knowledge with desperate Pilgrims only to be massacred by them. The U.S. military has always attacked my Peoples in the winter because those are the months when we are at our most vulnerable.
The Sand Creek Massacre, the Dakota 38 +2 Hangings, the Wounded Knee Massacre and the Fort Robinson Outbreak are just a few atrocities that impact me directly. I descend from survivors of the Wounded Knee Massacre, where 20 Medals of Honor were awarded to the US Soldiers responsible for murdering hundreds of women, children and elderly.
The colonization and militarization of this land established the roots of oppression that have rippled out since in the forms of U.S. imperialism and interventionism. From kidnapping children from their parents at the border to the removal of Palestinians from their lands- the violence that the United States military is presently unleashing around the world continues to be patterned from the colonization of Turtle Island and her original stewards.
And yet all over the world the People are rising up and taking the streets to counter the spread of fascism. So, we must continue to uphold the voices of those most impacted by war and US intervention. We must continue to deepen our understanding of organizing and direct action. We must continue to strengthen our relationships with our allies and coalition partners. We must continue to leverage our privilege and experiences as veterans.
And we must do this while staying grounded in our understanding of the impacts of militarism on Turtle Island and journeying down the road to decolonization. About Face: Veterans Against the War has been a community of healing and support for me, that has been transformational. It has been a safe space to have the tough conversations about war, colonization, tokenization, appropriation, imperialism and the impacts of all of these on us as human beings.
I invite you to join us in our commitment to not just use the word decolonization in our work, but to embody it with our daily actions and organizational practices. If you need a place to start, kick off your 2020 right and sign up for the FREE online course we are hosting in January! This inaugural (*cough* pilot) DecolonizeU class titled “Militarism on Turtle Island” is open to anyone who registers. For three weeks will study the historic and ongoing relationship between indigenous resistance and the militarization of North America through selected readings and live webinars featuring indigenous guests speakers.
Learn more and register HERE!
Lastly, we hope you will support our ability to keep doing this work by donating here this #GivingTuesday and asking a handful of friends and family to do the same.
Krystal Two Bulls
Director of Special Projects
About Face: Veterans Against the War