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

'Thanksgiving,' a Poem by Jonathan Garfield

Jonathan Garfield

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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Mary Tierney's picture
Mary Tierney
Submitted by Mary Tierney on
Thank you.

Jean Glowicki's picture
Jean Glowicki
Submitted by Jean Glowicki on
Jonathan, I regret that your ancestors' history has been so filled with misery and despair. I wish things had worked out peaceably between the early settlers and your forefathers. However, since it went terribly wrong for awhile, let us not dwell on the past and its misfortunes but try to move forward and improve upon the things you have highlighted. I would like to know what we can do about it in a positive way instead of pouring guilt on the current white men who played no part in bringing about the current status. Surely, there are enough others who like me want all people on earth to work and live in harmony. Respectfully yours, J.G.

Susan Strand's picture
Susan Strand
Submitted by Susan Strand on
I love this I had been angry a lot growing and still I get really angry sometimes but our creator is the same GOD the TRUE I try each day to love all people....but I am true to my race...

Timme's picture
Submitted by Timme on
Remember our earth belongs to all of us....Start at your beginning and you will find hope. Start at the end and you will find the end. :)

Stacia Logwood's picture
Stacia Logwood
Submitted by Stacia Logwood on
I THANK YOU for writing a poem with truth and heart and sharing on how you feel and remembering what the Indians of this country are a part of and there land and taken away.

Dennis Benton's picture
Dennis Benton
Submitted by Dennis Benton on
we are all in a War of Good verses evil,history tells us the victor writes it, and so has the history of a Great Indian Nation been wrote

Bren's picture
Submitted by Bren on

Buck Welch
Buck Welch
Submitted by Buck Welch on
As my daughter & I drove through the farm lands today, we were taken on a spiritual journey, seeing many native people in their villages. The spirits of many Native people, and a great Chief. They were disturbed by the Thanksgiving holiday. They spoke to our hearts, and I felt as if they were going on as before - a peaceful people wanting to survive without the white man’s presence. What a blessing it was seeing so many of the Native Spirits.

pinewalker's picture
Submitted by pinewalker on
First Nation's people, you sat alone, to us whites, you were unknown. You had so much, we needed more. Our world was the World, You were nothing. We sailed the ocean, We owned to world. We came to you with beads and prayers, behind it all, we shot, we killed and said our prayers. You gave us smiles, we took your land by miles and miles. We came as friends, we cut you down. We wanted land, we wanted gold. We took it all, so I am told. For each gold filled box, we gave you Pox, Syphilis, Flu and the Itch. Whiskey, beer and mental health issues too. Now we keep you in a zoo. Time for change, the time is right,