Inside Out

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By Michele McCormick
By Michele McCormick

Stand With Standing Rock

It’s Thanksgiving! Time for turkey and family and fun and armed conflict. And I am not referring to the conflict some families experience when they gather over the holidays; rather I am reflecting on that first Thanksgiving when the Pilgrims shared a meal with the locals.

I recall the first time I heard the story in elementary school and brought home my art project, colored drawings of turkeys and pilgrims and Native American headdresses that mother hung on the refrigerator. Now, I look forward to making my great grandmother’s cornbread dressing recipe, enough to feed 25. Thanksgiving brings good memories of my extended Texas family, gathering out in the country, sitting around a farm table loaded with traditional food and pies, pies, and more pies. The day culminates with naps or cheering our home team, the good ‘ole Dallas Cowboys.

And all of this reverie each year simply because of that first peaceful meal when indigenous people kindly shared their bounty with very hungry settlers.

Yet, this holiday I am thinking of the many tribes camping together at Standing Rock, N.D., to protect their water and land from the encroachment of the Dakota Access Pipeline. They are peaceful protectors, young and old, and yet last Sunday night the Morton County Police hit a crowd of 400 with water cannons during sub-freezing temperatures. Tear gas was fired into the faces of elders. Human rights organizations are now involved given the level of force used against the water protectors, who have been encamped since April. An old Taos, N.M., friend and a civil rights attorney is on the ground with a legal team and tribes are coming from across the nation to join what is becoming the largest Native American resistance in U.S. history.

Obama appears not to be responding except suggesting that the pipeline might be moved. Maybe he is leaving the conflict to the incoming administration or busy cooking for the big White House turkey day celebration.

Such goings on can seem very far away while living at the beach, and we may often forget that we walk and live on land that was inhabited by the …. tribe.

Also, we city folks may not be aware of these events given that major media sources have not been covering the escalating use of force until the stakes got higher and it began to look a lot like Selma. Military veterans are now vowing to protect the protectors. Years ago I supported and worked with tribal members who suffered from PTSD following a conflict between the Wabanaki tribe and the Canadian provincial government in Burnt Church, New Brunswick. That conflict was over fishing rights. I witnessed first hand the emotional, physical and communal harm that results from such encounters. And so I feel disheartened that such conflict is happening here in our land this Thanksgiving.

During this holiday while expressing gratitude for our many blessings, my hope is that we pause to reflect on all that was given so long ago at Plymouth Rock when in 1621 90 Native Americans gifted 53 Pilgrims with four slain deer for a celebratory feast that lasted three days.

Maybe some of us will be moved to give back to the many tribal people at Standing Rock who are ancestors of the first Native Americans, who are in need of medical supplies, warm clothing, and protection. As for me, I will send supplies and prayers while also enjoying cornbread dressing, pies, family and football after serving a meal to the homeless at Neighborhood Congregational Church. May your Thanksgiving day be blessed and full.

Michele McCormick is a practicing psychologist, writer and Laguna Beach resident who writes about her adopted hometown with a psychological twist and a dose of inspiration. She can be reached at [email protected]


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