Here just before Thanksgiving, a national holiday that encourages gratitude for the gifts of plenty most citizens enjoy, I’m reminded of the First Peoples who lived here before European refugees, settlers, and immigrants arrived.
This past fall representatives of over 300 tribes have been gathering in prayerful demonstrations in North Dakota at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Their aim is to prevent an oil pipeline from crossing their land, threatening their water and the sanctity of their sacred lands. My grade school images of the first Thanksgiving where white and native peoples supposedly sat down together did not foretell the environmental racism that still continues 300 years since.
All this and the fact that I now have a granddaughter who is Native American has caused me to look closely at where I stand and what I am willing to stand up for. The following piece is the result of what these experiences are making of me.
Floods No More
“Aren’t you afraid of flooding?” people ask
when they visit our home on the Allegheny River.
Floods can be monsters claiming everything you own and hold dear.
But our safety is insured by the Kinzua dam constructed upriver in 1965 on
Seneca tribal lands. 10,000 acres were flooded including ancestral burial grounds.
This broke the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty, signed by President George Washington.
The lake behind the dam is known as Lake Perfidy (treachery and betrayal).
Unaware of this cost, from the edge of our newly expanded deck
I’m convinced we have the best backyard in all of Pittsburgh.
That’s White Privilege.