By Dr. Trudy Ecoffey, Executive Director of Tanka Fund
Greetings and Blessings from southwest South Dakota.
For many people, Thanksgiving offers up images of the warm and fuzzy picture of the Wampanoag Nation of people helping the Pilgrims with much-needed food. The Pilgrims were having an extremely hard time adjusting to their new environment in a new world. It is perceived that the Pilgrims were giving thanks to their new neighbors for sharing their food. So those pictures show mutual respect and friendship. Unfortunately, this is not reality and there is a hard, disturbing, and somewhat gruesome picture of what history really was and what followed.
My mentor and former boss, Birgil Kill Straight, used to tell his employees that we can go ahead and take off the day of Thanksgiving if we wanted, and be thankful for all the things the Creator has given you, but be mindful that this holiday was created under false ideas of what the relationship really was between Native people and European immigrants. After he would lecture us on the holiday, he then would follow up with a big meal and gathering of his employees and their families. He was a very generous and giving man. He was also a true “Buffalo Keeper,” for he promoted restoration of buffalo on the Pine Ridge Reservation and other reservations his whole life. He has since passed, but I always remember his words and contribution to the Buffalo Nation and to his people. He is dearly missed.
I do not want to dismiss the idea of this holiday for anyone. It is a great time to give thanks no matter what religion, race, or affiliation you associate with. It is also a good time to remember Native people and the great contributions they have given, but please also give some thought on what they have lost and sacrificed. As you gather safely with friends and relatives this Thanksgiving, I hope you will consider giving thanks to all the “Buffalo Keepers” who are restoring buffalo to Native land, lives, and economy.
We at Tanka Fund will give thanks for all your contributions and pray for your wellbeing and your family and friends in the year ahead. Sincerely, we deeply appreciate your giving, your support, and your interest in the mission of Tanka Fund. Wopila Tanka (thank you very much).