source: Denver Public Library Digital Collection
'Thomas White Face, Ogalalla Sioux' by Heyn Photo

'Thanksgiving,' a Poem by Jonathan Garfield

Jonathan Garfield
11/28/13

November 19, 2013 at 5:56pm

Thank you for relocating relations, relocating their hearts, some forgetting or ashamed of their Indigenous roots.

Thank you for alcohol that now courses like blood through reservation veins.

Thank you for teaching our young, impressionable, heavily reserved minds your history and overlooking ours in reservation schools.

Thank you for Catholic boarding school surgeons painfully removing our Native tongue without anesthetic until our mouths bled English.

Thank you for that old white man in the white owned store on my rez that showed my 8 year old eyes the color of my skin as he stalked me like prey aisle-to-aisle, always a thief in his adult eyes.

Thank you for the bruises that covered my sister like war paint, painted by fists, baseball bat and a love created and mixed by your reservations, in wars she never won, dying every time.

Thank you for the U.S.D.A. approved diabetes that has stolen uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, fathers, my mother.

Thank you for BIA and its IHS replacing our ceremonial medicine with prescribed addictions that have now stolen so many visions on the rez that it’s hard to see what comes next.

Thank you for compulsory sterilization creating and rewriting so many stories forever left broken and unfinished.

Thank you for the children starving reservations wide, left alone and staying up late, hoping their parent or parents didn’t drink or shoot up all the check.

Thank you for the alcohol related car wrecks that have turned epic poems into tragic short stories.

Thank for the tiny white crosses plunged deep like hot knives into our land and the reservation roadsides that always claim another victim from families dying a little inside every time they drive past them.

Thank you for the F.A.S. and F.A.E. babies turned high school dropouts because the Caucasian teacher from a different world was never taught enough before coming to the rez to teach.

Thank you for the reservation suicides that have killed the spirits of those left behind.

Thank you for using us as mascots, making our young ones feel uncertain in their skin and redefining honor for them by turning us into a cold, unfeeling, symbol for a sports team where drunken fans honor us by mocking us.

Thank you for leading us on to reservations with no guidebooks on how to live in your world on our land, where we are still stumbling and learning, trial by heartbreaking error, to this day.

Thank you for your stereotypical portrayal of us in film and the movies where the white men are the heroes saving the Indians despite the Native-like titles like Dances With Wolves, Thunderheart.

Thank you for stealing our land, raping it like some woman you never knew the name of, leaving her crying, traumatized, bleeding.

* * *

Thank you for razing our homeland, cutting it up into states, poorly piecing it together and shrouding us in it like a quilt infested with smallpox.

I am thankful for all of this for making me feel too fucking much.

I am thankful for all of this turning me into a clenched fist in times when words don’t hit hard enough.

I am thankful for all of this, for stirring the spirits of warriors dormant in us for centuries.

I am thankful for all of this because without it, I could never write this.

Thank you for the artillery, arrows for my bow.

Born a few centuries too late and raised on U.S.D.A. approved commodity everything, Jonathan Garfield is an enrolled Assiniboine tribal member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux reservation in Montana. His stories document the tragedy forced on “his people” (which he loves saying ‘cause it sounds cool) that is the rez. Jonathan has been published in various Art & Literature magazines and quarterlies. His short story, “Reservation Warparties”, became a short film, adapted to a screenplay and directed by Angelique Midthunnder. The short film was featured on the program, Independent Lens, on PBS. Jonathan Garfield continues to write poetry and short stories. He is also a practicing trickster. 

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Candi's picture
Candi
Submitted by Candi on
I am so thankful there is someone that is 'brave' enough to write these words...and they are true...and any furtherance of anything less is just a continuance of the lies told in schools and a secondary "Trail of Tears'...It is a shameful past...and long before the black man was brought here...I only hope you will know there are white people that know the truth...and ask your forgiveness ...but that you also know...there are many today that do not contribute to the shame..and look at the Indians as the true ancestor of us..and this land we live in...and hope we can come close to the spirituality of your forefathers...and cherish the gifts your people have brought to us...

Candi's picture
Candi
Submitted by Candi on
I am so thankful there is someone that is 'brave' enough to write these words...and they are true...and any furtherance of anything less is just a continuance of the lies told in schools and a secondary "Trail of Tears'...It is a shameful past...and long before the black man was brought here...I only hope you will know there are white people that know the truth...and ask your forgiveness ...but that you also know...there are many today that do not contribute to the shame..and look at the Indians as the true ancestor of us..and this land we live in...and hope we can come close to the spirituality of your forefathers...and cherish the gifts your people have brought to us...

sue c ogden's picture
sue c ogden
Submitted by sue c ogden on
I am not thankful for any of that, I am ashamed for my white race relatives who did and still do all of this. About all I can do is "teach" my friends that all of this is true. Thank you and I can only apologize.

ROBERT THOMAS REED SR's picture
ROBERT THOMAS R...
Submitted by ROBERT THOMAS R... on
THIS POEM IS THE TRUTH AND ANY BODY WHO SAY ITS DOESNT KNOW HIS OUR HER HISTORY

Rebecca Edwards 's picture
Rebecca Edwards
Submitted by Rebecca Edwards on
and he is right and yes it is sad to think that all this did happen I have always found that I have always been curious about Indians and ran across my family tree and the things my family had went through and found out we are Cherokee and I know they went through so real bad times as well the way the government treats them is crazy and I don't think it is right taking away all the Indians would have offered them if you would have been lot nicer to them but I know that the great sprites are getting them back but they don't know is that they are putting a curse on them selves by doing what they did to all the Indians. the government is sinking and sinking fast I hope that all the Indians get better homes and better life

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Here is my white girl born in 1956 take on Thanksgiving Day. I never believe the stories about the first Thanksgiving as told, what I believed was the Indians probably gave food and postpone the starving of the Pilgrims, I have always been a reader so I found out things for myself. Of late there is a movement that some Indians have joined and that is blame the white man for all that is wrong and everyone is untitled to an opinion and that is just part of human nature. Just as some of the Indians aided the British, the French and the colonist at different times. I do not claim to know what the detail histories are except that the federal government never kept any of their promises to anyone white,red ,black or rainbow color and that is true today. Maybe I say this and some will think it is pure arrogance but it seems to me that people who have been self reliant do not have the poverty as those that have. I have always looked at the native Americans as a people to be admired and symbols or mascots depiction of them are should not be taken in a negative way. I perhaps have a higher regard than some of their own people.The fight against mascots is a waste energy when it could better spent fighting to get back land held in trust by the Federal government.

Harold  Bustamonte's picture
Harold Bustamonte
Submitted by Harold Bustamonte on
Thank you brother for sharing truths.. I'm Chibcha Indian of Colombia and my son is Western Cherokee Nation

TheGreatTurtle's picture
TheGreatTurtle
Submitted by TheGreatTurtle on
Only when you can truly find gratitude in your heart for all of the things listed above, only when you can set aside your anger without losing your desire to create change can we begin to move forward. Open your heart to those who have committed atrocities and you will begin to heal the world around you.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Damm

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
That is Just part of it.. THANK YOU FOR KILLING THE SONS OF MASSASSOIT THE SEACONKE WAMPANOAG GREAT SUPREME LEADER WHO KEPT YOU ALIVE IN THE COLD WINTER AND BROUGHT FOOD TO YOU FOR THANKSGIVING. YOU POISIONED WAMSUTTA AND KILLED KING PHILLIP.. TREACHOROUS AHO.

Peggy Beavers's picture
Peggy Beavers
Submitted by Peggy Beavers on
It is so sad knowing how true this is. I am Cherokee but I was not taught anything about the culture. I hope to some day learn.

Robert Lipton's picture
Robert Lipton
Submitted by Robert Lipton on
". . . until our mouths bled English." Terrific! I envy this image. Powerful! Thank you for the reminder.

lora khat's picture
lora khat
Submitted by lora khat on
Aho. I am so deeply sorry. I make every attempt I can in my little life to atone for what has been done and continues to be done to the people of the First Nations. We have all been colonized, but the Indigenous in the so-called Americas suffer the most. I try to educate myself and others. I will post this to facebook.

Four Arrows's picture
Four Arrows
Submitted by Four Arrows on
Wopila for this powerful poem. I wrote Teaching Truly: A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education to not only make non-Indians aware of all this, but to get educators to understand that the Western worldview itself is what we must all learn to resist as we finally look to traditional ways of knowing as the only proven solution to the crises we are ALL facing.

M. Sue's picture
M. Sue
Submitted by M. Sue on
Fight back by not giving any of your money to a purveyor of alcohol, European tobacco, sugar, flour and lard. Study the ways of the Hiefer organization and adapt it to become independent of the big box stores. Take back your ways of working as a community.

Catherine Glass's picture
Catherine Glass
Submitted by Catherine Glass on
I am very sorry for all that has happen to your people,,I am so in love with the words of your people,,they are so meaningful,,,BEAUTIFUL words that are used to express how you feel my the GREAT SPIRIT BLESS U ALL

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