There is no resolution of this ambivalence. I probably owe my life several times over to the events celebrated by Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. And yet those events also involved oppression and genocide. Such is human history.
My personal way to resolve this is to accept the celebration, particularly of Thanksgiving which is an Eating Holiday (and hence one of my favorites) but also commemorate the events with some effort to right the wrongs against Native Americans.
INDIGENOUS DEMOCRATIC NETWORK:
For those who want to revisit what the events of Columbus Day and Thanksgiving (i.e. European colonialism in the Americas) meant to Native Americans, please read up on the book 1491 which discusses the before and after of European intervention in the Americas.
For those who want to help correct the wrongs that intervention initiated, while also correcting other, more modern wrongs, here are some suggested groups for you to support. (My recipe recommendation for cooking a bird, turkey or otherwise, is at the bottom, after my political recommendations).
The Indigenous Democratic Network: An amazing organization whose goal is to help Native American Democrats get elected across the country. In some circumstances their efforts have helped swing an entire state legislature from Republican to Democrat, and in the process they help empower native Americans on almost every level of government. Like all of us on the Democratic, progressive and leftist side, INDN took some hits this year. But of all organizations on the left, I feel they are best poised to make a comeback because so few groups focus on Native Americans and it is a great untapped constituency. I believe that ONE of the main groups that will help a Democratic comeback is the Native American constituency. And so I strongly urge a donation to the Indigenous Democratic Network as a way to counter the racist Republican extremists in the United States and also as a way to empower one of the least empowered groups in America. A donation to INDN List is one of my top suggestions for commemorating Thanksgiving.
To further help the Native American vote, there is Native Vote, which works towards facilitating the vote in Indian Country in a non-partisan manner. I only recently became aware of this group, but I think they are wonderful! Here is their explanation of what they do:
Native Vote, is a nation wide resource for encouraging voter turn out in Indian Country. Organized by the National Congress of American Indians, get out the vote efforts in Indian Country have been supported by NCAI since 1955.
They work in several states and would appreciate it if you could volunteer time or if you could donate to help them out.
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY IN INDIAN COUNTRY: The Tribal Lands Renewable Energy Program
This is among my favorite things to donate to because it simultaneously helps global warming, creates American jobs and so helps the American economy, and helps Native Americans. The impact of this particular effort is enormous and I have donated multiple times to help them out. It goes beyond politics to simple humanitarian help.
From the excellent (and international) group Trees, Water People:
In the nation's poorest communities — Indian reservations of the American West — bitter winters force many families to spend up to 70% of their total income to heat their homes. Choices are few: expensive electricity, polluting propane, or firewood from the few trees that remain.
Energy costs on these reservations create hardship for almost every family. The harsh cold can be deadly for tribal elders living in homes that aren't adequately heated. The high cost of heating often puts other necessities, such as health care and medicine, out of reach. The result is more suffering for a people that has already suffered much.
Trees, Water & People's Tribal Lands Renewable Energy Program puts the power of nature — the warmth of the sun, the power of the wind, the shelter of trees — to work for Native Americans. Working with reservation communities, TWP plants windbreak and shade trees around homes, and builds and installs supplemental solar heaters for families in need. These solutions are sustainable, economically beneficial, environmentally friendly, and celebrate the Native Americans' respect for Mother Earth.
Since the program began in 2003, more than 300 supplemental solar heating systems have been installed at Pine Ridge, Rosebud and other Great Plains reservation communities. In 2006-2007, TWP expanded the Tribal Lands program to include a pilot installation of a household-scale wind turbine and solar electricity (photovoltaic or PV) system at the Little Thunder home on the Rosebud Sioux reservation in South Dakota. The home had previously been outfitted with a supplemental solar heater and windbreak and shade trees. Working with our partners in the Rosebud Housing Authority and Tribal Utility Commission, we're testing the viability of this multi-modal approach to helping Native families.
Donate to the Lakota Solar Enterprises to help Native Americans achieve environmental and energy independence.
AMERICAN INDIAN COLLEGE FUND:
The standard operating procedure for my Jewish ancestors was invest in education for your kids and you will succeed. Overall in America this was a successful strategy. Along these lines, I have always felt that a donation to the American Indian College Fund was an excellent way to help out Indian Country.
From their website:
In the wake of the civil rights and American Indian self-determination movements of the 1960s, tribal leaders realized they would have to take control of the direction of education in order to reverse centuries of misguided and failed federal education policies.
In 1968, the Navajo Nation created a first-of-its-kind educational institution—a college controlled by the tribe, located on the reservation and established specifically to provide higher education to tribal members. With that monumental event, the tribal college movement was born. Since then, the number of tribal colleges has grown to more than 30, located in 13 states and serving more than 250 American Indian Nations from every geographic region in the United States.
Help out Native Americans achieve a higher education by donating to the American Indian College Fund.
Other organizations I strongly support are (focusing on Native American women and their particularly critical needs):
Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center
And, one of the most amazing success stories of the progressive grassroots, is Pretty Bird Woman House, a woman's shelter on a Sioux Reservation that was almost destroyed by attacks but was saved by the progressive grassroots movement. I can think of no better donation for the rights of women AND Native Americans than helping out Pretty Bird Woman House:
Pretty Bird Woman House
P.O. Box 596
McLaughlin, SD 57642
Enjoy your Thanksgiving. It really does celebrate the start of some amazing things that saved many of us descendants of immigrants from horrible situations. But also make it a tradition to do at least ONE thing to help out the Native Americans that lost so that most of our families could be saved. Take your pick of the groups I mention. But please, show the Native Americans that they are FINALLY a welcome and accepted part of AMERICA.