Who’s Land We’re On

Today’s thanksgiving. For most across the United States families and friends will be gathering to share company and stories over good food.

While I’m all about the shared meals with loved ones, I can’t help but detest this holiday which ultimately celebrates the territorial and cultural conquest of American Indians. And the thing is, the annihilation of American Indians continues today.

It was only 162 years ago that Wisconsin was formed as a state and in that time the remaining indigenous people have continued to be forced from the land onto small reservations and their rights which were once promised in treaties taken away. Rights as basic as being able to continue to harvest wild rice, fish and hunt.

Two weeks ago on my way up to Duluth, I stayed the night with an old family friend who now lives on the Lac du Flambeau reservation in northern Wisconsin. One of the many stories I heard that night was of a friend of theirs, an Ojibwe from the res, who a couple weeks earlier had killed a deer and had it in the back of his pick-up. He started talking about it to a few non-natives who turned around and attacked him, angry that he had killed a deer during non-hunting season and calling him a “timber nigger.” In self-defense he fought back but when the police arrived, he was the one to get arrested and spent the night in jail.

Their are number of translations for Milwaukee one of them being the “Gathering Place” coming from both the Potawatomi and Ojibwe.  In just a few hours my house will become the gathering place for friends and family. I will give thanks to sharing a meal with loved ones but also hold in my heart a respect and gratitude for those who originally lived on this land: the Fox, Mascouten, Potawatomi and Ho-Chunk.

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