The first-ever Thanksgiving in the United States occurred, by most accounts, in 1621. Wampanoag Indians were invited to attend, in thanks for helping the Pilgrims survive their first year here.
Within 50 years, more than half of that tribe died from smallpox -- introduced to them by the Pilgrims -- or from King Philip's War (a war fought against the colonists who were attacking them and taking their land). Many who survived that war -- men, women and children -- were sold into slavery.
We all know what happened after that. Tribes were slaughtered, enslaved, and/or pushed further and further west onto small patches of land. Comparatively few remain today on these "reservations." And while we might feel we've come so far since those times -- that we're better people now than we were then -- the present continues to challenge that notion.
Today the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) threatens the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota. Tribes from across the country have gathered to peacefully protest the pipeline, and have been joined by environmentalists and even U.S. military veterans. Many police dispatched in the name of DAPL have refused, or gone home. Because it's easy for anyone to see that what's happening in North Dakota is wrong.
But that doesn't mean the battle is over. There is a lot of money -- in very greedy hands -- supporting the pipeline, and as we know in this country, the people with money are the people with power. And so the standoff continues.
This week, water protectors were attacked with water cannons (in freezing weather), tear gas, concussion grenades, and rubber bullets. I watched live feed from these events and can see no violent acts on behalf of the protesters that would warrant this assault. Hundreds were injured; one suffered a heart attack; and one woman lost her arm (it was hit by a concussion grenade).
All because they're peacefully protecting their water. The most basic of human needs. The most basic of human rights.
Without it, we die.
The struggle in North Dakota isn't quibbling over property rights.
It's a fight for survival.
The lack of moral outrage -- and abysmal media coverage -- of these events is little short of heartbreaking.
So as you give thanks today, as you enjoy time with family and friends, please don't forget our nation's past. Or its present. If we keep turning a blind eye to both, there's little hope for the future.