When I newly came to America, I was new to a lot of things, and I pronounced things the wrong way. I was happy to learn more about Thanksgiving, and I was eager to attend my first Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s home.
There was going to be a game of football, and I was confused if I should add sugar to the potatoes or not. I also brought along some table decorations, tepee packs, and paper headdresses.
Well, I had fun. The headdresses were cool, and people had fun with the paper. I became friends with those I met at the Thanksgiving dinner. I imagined this to be similar to how the first Settlers that came on the Mayflower became friends with the Native Americans and how they enjoyed food together.
I started researching how immigrants spent Thanksgiving for a podcast, and I realized that we are not really a nation of immigrants. There were native people here for thousands of years, and those native people still exist. I spoke with some native people and found out how we have unknowingly indulged in a lot of stereotypes. All those teepee crafts, beads, feather headdresses, and other things were not the real thing.
We need to make more research and learn about the real situation of things. Native Americans feel angry when they see these stereotypes all around them. They have faced a lot of atrocities and injustice, and we shouldn’t rub salt on their injuries.
Back in 1993, Donald Trump committed one of these stereotype gaffes when he claimed that his competitors, the indigenous Mashantucket Pequot tribe were not natives because they don’t look like Indians. He was told by the Reps that people should not have to look a certain way to be who they are.
The Trump’s Administration reversed an Obama ruling that placed land in trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag. These people sat with the first settlers and ate with them during the first Thanksgiving. They protested in Washington as the land was just a tiny part of what was stolen from them.
Back in Ireland, I went to see Kindred Spirits which is a sculpture in Cork. It was placed there to remind people of the events of 1847. Then, the Great Famine occurred in Ireland, and over 1 million people died. The Choctaw tribe sent a donation of $170 which is about $5000. 15 years earlier, the Choctaw were displaced, and they were sent to walk the Trail of Tears with them losing thousands who died on the way.
Kindred Spirits remind me of this extraordinary kindness by people who never had much but still donated the little they had to people in a faraway land. In those days, the British who colonized Ireland did not care, but others from far away cared.
I’m thankful to this person who did a lot for my people. I’m also happy that hundreds of years later, their kindness is not forgotten, and it reminds us of how much love we can share around in the world with our actions.