The Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota chapter of Idle No More initiated a national campaign to boycott the US “holiday” of Thanksgiving.
A boycott of the US “holiday” seems a reasonable expectation, given the true relationship between Native people and their colonial oppressors.
“Thanksgiving” was first proclaimed a day of national observance by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, almost exactly one year after he ordered the hanging of thirty-eight Dakota Indians in Mankato, Minnesota, the day after Christmas.
To date the incident in Mankato stands as the largest mass execution in US history.[scroller]
Chapter organizers decided to promote the boycott in a very interesting way, encouraging campaign endorsements from the animal rights movement specifically. Inviting animal advocates to endorse the boycott was quite the clever campaign strategy, since the animal advocacy movement is one that already claims to champion notions of liberation and respect for autonomy. J.R. Bobick, organizer for Idle No More Minneapolis/ St. Paul explains the reason for targeting animal advocates:
We ask animal advocates to acknowledge the genocidal acts of colonialists who murdered millions of Native people, but also to remember all the animals that have been removed from the land as well. It’s a holiday no animal advocate should celebrate, given the genocide of our Buffalo and all the other precious creatures who were literally wiped out in the name of “giving thanks.”
The day known as “Thanksgiving” is a time of mourning for our people and our four legged relatives, who once roamed free of colonialism. We are all related and we all have a purpose here and right to survival.
Impassioned animal rights activists can often be heard chanting, “One struggle! One fight! Human freedom! Animal Rights!” outside furriers and animal circuses. Yet, despite the solidarity this statement asserts, it is a much less common occurrence to hear animal advocates speaking up for members of their own species.
Minnesota based group Northwoods Wolf Alliance answered the call for a boycott. Reyna Crow, Idle No More Duluth organizer and founder of Northwoods Wolf Alliance, speaks about the importance of ethical consistency in the struggle for liberation:
Since many have been boycotting thanksgiving for years because they object to the way the animal agriculture industry `raises’ and slaughters turkeys, it seems natural to ask them to learn about how the history behind the holiday has affected people too. The boycott highlights the hypocrisy underlying the “holiday.” The attempt to extirpate both Indigenous people and wildlife, including wolves, was in no small part motivated by the desire to expand ranching and farming into Indian country. The connection is not just historic.
The ranching lobbies are a major reason wolves are being tortured and killed in North America today. It is incredible that in 2013, even Americans who consider themselves “educated” are not always aware that the “holiday” they celebrate each year is a lie. Those of us working on issues of protecting the land, water and animal nations find ourselves working together, across cultural labels and “boundaries.”
This boycott seemed a good opportunity to raise awareness among non-Indigenous animal advocates who, because they’ve been lied to right through university in most cases, may not be aware of the realities of European settlement, as it affects their Indigenous allies.
Instead of sitting down to a celebratory vegan meal, members of the Los Angeles based animal advocacy group Progress for Science converged at one well-trafficked LA overpass for a banner drop, which read, “human genocide. animal genocide.”
On the Progress for Science website, the group explains the rationale behind its “Thanksgiving” day action, stating, “The racist roots embedded in the day’s history are still alive today. Racism remains prevalent in our culture and public policy continues to disadvantage racial and ethnic minorities.
The US government also continues to colonize other people and wage war on other cultures and nations. Once we accept that ‘Thanksgiving’ celebrates the massacre of Indigenous peoples, such an occasion is both marginalizing and absurd.”
The group offers some guidance to those who may be struggling with the ethical inconsistency inherent in celebrating the genocide of First Nations:
“Please redefine the occasion for yourself and extend compassion to victims of slavery and slaughter. You do not need the holiday at all to give thanks or to spend quality time with those you cherish. Knowledge is power, and living intentionally, while applying new knowledge to your lifestyle, is one of the most powerful things you can do.”
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” – Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor