As we celebrate with family and friends, let us take time to appreciate and share the truth.
While this holiday purports to mark friendship among Indigenous peoples and Pilgrims in 1621, the truth is that the first settlers and the U.S. government’s forced removals; theft of ancestral lands; biological warfare (intentionally distributing blankets contaminated with smallpox); and massacres amounted to genocide: Between Columbus’s arrival to 400 years later, the Indigenous population in North America plummeted from up to 15 Million to fewer than 238,000.
The truth is that the Oglala Lakota peoples living on The Pine Ridge Reservation–the 8th-largest reservation in the US, larger than Delaware & Rhode Island combined–struggle to survive every winter. Temperatures drop to 40 degrees below zero. Heat comes from wood stoves. They do not have enough firewood. Kids have reported suicide attempts as an effort to end the struggle against the cold.
The average income is $9,150. 80% of residents are unemployed. 90% live below the federal poverty line. Pervasive poverty forces an impossible choice: whether to keep their children warm, or keep their children fed.
Today, through Together Rising, you gave $400,000 to One Spirit, a non-profit primarily run by Indigenous people – to keep those on the Reservation warm this year, and to cover all fixed costs of heat for next year. Your money will fund all wood, and employment of Indigenous men & women who will cut, split & distribute the wood for the community, as well as a storage facility to maintain and protect wood reserves.
Your funds will also establish & fully stock 3 new strategically located Food Centers -managed and staffed by Indigenous people. Your funds are also going to sustainability and self-sufficiency– the growth of traditional food directly on the Reservation, and developing the capacity of the buffalo herd to feed, and become an economic engine, for the people.
As we enjoy the warmth and food of our tables today, we remember and mourn the truth, we honor the relentless resolve of Indigenous peoples, and we thank you for supporting Together Rising.