Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the Natural World

November is American Indian & Alaska Native Heritage Month. Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. It's also an opportunity to highlight the important contributions of Native peoples and the shared histories between tribal nations and other communities. Please visit the Native American Heritage Month website to read more about it. 

Each November in America we celebrate the harvest festival of Thanksgiving. Over the years, much lore has evolved surrounding early Thanksgivings and feelings of brotherhood and good will between pilgrim settlers and the Native inhabitants of North America. Sadly, most of these stories are inaccurate at best and serve to ignore or gloss over a broad history of atrocities. In our hearts, we cannot celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the way revisionist history teaches our school children. We still feel the pain and suffering of our ancestors as the pilgrims celebrated their thanksgivings by theft of our lands and the genocide of our peoples.

Still, Native Americans are grateful for all that nature provides, and many of us celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in our own ways. Moreover, we give thanks every day as we greet the morning star in the eastern sky giving thanks to the Creator, our families, our ancestors, and our survival.

We wish you and your families a happy holiday, and hope you are able to set images of pilgrims aside and join in gratitude for the bounty the living earth provides us. In that spirit, let us share with you the words of "Thanksgiving" from our Mohawk relatives in belief that one day there will truly be a Thanksgiving for all.

Thanksgiving Address

Greetings to the Natural World 


The People
Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.

Now our minds are one.

The Earth Mother
We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Waters
We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms-waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water.

Now our minds are one.

The Fish
We turn our minds to the all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks. Now our minds are one.

The Plants
Now we turn toward the vast fields of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come.

Now our minds are one.

The Food Plants
With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Medicine Herbs
Now we turn to all the Medicine herbs of the world. From the beginning they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are happy there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the Medicines and to the keepers of the Medicines.

Now our minds are one.

The Animals
We gather our minds together to send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are honored by them when they give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for our people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we hope that it will always be so.

Now our minds are one.

The Trees
We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty and other useful things. Many people of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind, we greet and thank the Tree life.

Now our minds are one.

The Birds
We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds-from the smallest to the largest-we send our joyful greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Four Winds
We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help us to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and thanks to the Four Winds.

Now our minds are one.

The Thunderers
Now we turn to the west where our grandfathers, the Thunder Beings, live. With lightning and thundering voices, they bring with them the water that renews life. We are thankful that they keep those evil things made by Okwiseres underground. We bring our minds together as one to send greetings and thanks to our Grandfathers, the Thunderers.

Now our minds are one.

The Sun
We now send greetings and thanks to our eldest Brother, the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Brother, the Sun.

Now our minds are one.

Grandmother Moon
We put our minds together to give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon, who lights the night-time sky. She is the leader of woman all over the world, and she governs the movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Grandmother, the Moon.

Now our minds are one.

The Stars
We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewelry. We see them in the night, helping the Moon to light the darkness and bringing dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home. With our minds gathered together as one, we send greetings and thanks to the Stars.

Now our minds are one.

The Enlightened Teachers
We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened Teachers who have come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to these caring teachers.

Now our minds are one.

The Creator
Now we turn our thoughts to the creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the Creator.

Now our minds are one.

Closing Words
We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.

Now our minds are one.

Send a Thanksgiving NARF e-card today!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

NARF Staff Attorney Melody McCoy to present at MSU Indigenous Law Conference

This week, NARF Staff Attorney Melody McCoy will present at Michigan State University College of Law’s 11th Annual Indigenous Law Conference.  The theme for the 2014 conference is “Dismantling Barriers in American Indian Education.” 

NARF was instrumental in the creation of the Tribal Education Departments National Assembly (TEDNA), and Melody will be presenting on tribal education agencies in federal, tribal, and state law.   Her conference materials  and PowerPoint presentation are available from the TEDNA website.  You also can see Melody’s previous work in the NARF publication, Tribalizing Indian Education Series.  Finally, to learn more about the conference, visit the Michigan State website.

Monday, November 17, 2014

NARF works for the protection of sacred places and celebrates Heritage Month

The Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark in the National Forest
Long before Europeans landed on the shores of America, the Native peoples of this continent revered and protected the lands and natural resources that they knew as their homeland.  Native Americans have held ceremonies, made spiritual journeys, and buried their relatives according to time-honored customs and traditions on sacred lands.  These places are forever tied to our cultural identity and everyday life.

Many of these hallowed grounds are once again threatened.  Mining, reservoir projects, oil and gas development, and even recreational parks are causing tribal sacred places to become vulnerable.  For example, a mine proposed by Cortez Joint Venture, Ltd., would destroy Mt. Tenabo, a precious cultural site of the Western Shoshone.  Mount Tenabo and its surrounding area are part of Newe Sogobia, the ancestral land of the Western Shoshone.  Newe Sogobia means the people’s earth mother.  Mount Tenabo has a role in Shoshone creation stories and is the site of ancient burials.  Today, the Western Shoshone still have ceremonies and gather medicinal plants there.

Medicine Mountain, in the Bighorn National Forest in north central Wyoming, is the site of a large Medicine Wheel, and remains an important focus of contemporary Native American spiritual life for members of regional tribes, including the Arapaho, Shoshone, Cheyenne, Crow, and others.  Approximately 80 feet in diameter, it is described by the Interior Department as “the largest and most elaborate Indian structure of its type.”  Archeologists estimate that the area was used by prehistoric Native Americans for nearly 7,500 years.

Every day we must answer the call to fight for justice with knowledge, understanding and determination in our legal arguments and in the courts.  In the case of Wyoming Sawmills v. United States and Medicine Wheel Coalition, NARF fought to uphold the U.S. Forest Service’s Management Plan for the Sacred Medicine Wheel under the Historic Preservation Plan.

At NARF, we believe that our domestic laws and social policies must provide adequate legal protection for its citizens, regardless of race.  On behalf of our clients, we seek to enforce and strengthen laws that affect the basic survival and traditions of Indian tribes.

Your generosity makes it possible to protect Native sacred places, preserve Native rights, and defend tribal sovereignty.  This holiday season, please remember the Native American Rights Fund as you plan your year-end giving.

And, when making your vacation plans for next year, try to visit at least one of the many Native American historical sites where you can learn more about tribal ancestry and history. Some suggested sites are:

• Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado)
• Aztec Ruins National Monument (New Mexico)
• Taos Pueblo (New Mexico)
• Effigy Mounds National Monument (Iowa)
• Fort UnionTrading Post (North Dakota)
• Grand Portage (Minnesota)
• Katmai (Alaska)
• Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve (Florida)
• Mashantucket Pequot Museum (Connecticut)

In addition, November is American Indian & Alaska Native Heritage Month.  Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. It’s also an opportunity to highlight the important contributions of Native peoples and the shared histories between tribal nations and other communities.  Please visit the Native American Heritage Month website to read more about it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Former NARF employee and Native rights advocate Suzan Shown Harjo named recipient of Presidential Medal of Freedom

White House seal
Native rights advocate Suzan Shown Harjo has been named a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.  Suzan is a well-known writer, curator, and activist who has advocated for improving the lives of Native peoples throughout her career.   As a member of the Carter Administration and as current president of the Morning Star Institute, she has been a key figure in many important Indian legislative battles, including the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.  Suzan is Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, and is a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes.

Suzan is a longtime member of the NARF family, and she previously served as a Legislative Liaison for NARF.  NARF Executive Director John Echohawk congratulated Suzan on the award, saying “this honor means that Suzan is one of the greatest fighters for Native American rights in history.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom will be awarded in a ceremony at the White House on November 24th, 2014.  More information on the Medal of Freedom and other recipients can be found at the White House website.

Monday, November 10, 2014

NARF co-hosts 2nd Annual Chief Niwot Forum with Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell

flyer for the event
Please join us on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. for the 2nd Annual Chief Niwot Forum – Congress Meets Sand Creek: Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell’s Fight for a National Historic Site.  Senator Campbell sponsored the legislation for the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, which opened to the public in 2007. The National Park Service calls the site 'profound, symbolic, spiritual, controversial, a site unlike any other in America.'   David Skaggs served with Campbell in Congress and will interview Campbell about the groundbreaking historic site and its importance to all Americans.

Admission for the event is $20, or $10 for Boulder History Museum members and NARF donors.  Tickets may be purchased online or by calling the Museum at (303) 449-3464.  The event will be held at the Museum of Boulder, (2205 Broadway, at the northwest corner of Broadway and Pine) in Boulder, Colorado.  Please join us!

NARF celebrates Veterans Day and Heritage Month

painting of soldier
November is American Indian & Alaska Native Heritage Month. Join NARF as we celebrate and remember the heritage of Native Americans who have laid down their lives to help defend and preserve America’s democratic ideals.  They have proudly and courageously served in every major conflict from the Revolutionary War to the Iraq War, so it is appropriate that Heritage Month is celebrated during November, the same month in which Veterans Day is observed.

Today, NARF especially remembers our American Indian Military Veterans and honors all Modern Day Warriors and Heros, past, present, and future.  Native Americans have served their country with honor for generations, and we salute them.

Dr. Joe Medicine Crow (Crow) was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States by President Barack Obama.  He added that to his collection: a Congressional Gold Medal, a Bronze Star, and Legion of Honour, the highest decoration given in France.  During his military service, Medicine Crow completed all four tasks to become a Crow war chief, including touching a living enemy soldier, disarming an enemy, leading a successful war party, and stealing an enemy horse.

MSGT. Woodrow Wilson Keeble, who was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bush year on March 3, 2008, is a proud member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe of South Dakota. 

Army Spc. Lori Piestewa (Hopi) was aware of Indian women who served America before her.  This 23-year-old soldier became the first service woman killed in action in Iraq, and the first American Indian woman killed in combat.  Her death, on March 23, 2003, touched a grateful nation and changed the name of the most prominent mountain near Phoenix to Piestewa Peak.

In the 20th century, five American Indians have been among those soldiers to be distinguished by receiving the United States' highest military honor: the Medal of Honor. Given for military heroism "above and beyond the call of duty," these warriors exhibited extraordinary bravery in the face of the enemy and, in two cases, made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. - Jack C. Montgomery (Cherokee), Ernest Childers (Creek), Van Barfoot (Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians), Mitchell Red Cloud Jr. (Ho-Chunk), and Charles George (Eastern Band of Cherokee).

You can honor American Indian veterans and all veterans by acknowledging them to friends and family as well as learning more about the history of their service at your local library, bookstore, or veterans hospital.

On Wednesday, November 12th, NARF’s Boulder, Colorado, office will be honoring our employees and relatives who have served in the military with a feast, prayers, and songs.  If you are in the area, please join us and bring a dish to share, as well as photos of your loved ones in the armed services.  For more information, please call (303) 447-8760. 

Regardless if you are able to join us on the 12th, please take a moment that day to recognize the veterans in your own lives, whether friends, co-workers, or loved ones.  All our warriors are sacred.  Let us remember them on Veterans' Day and every day.

Friday, November 7, 2014

NARF Staff Attorney Steve Moore presents at California Water Law Conference

Earlier this week, NARF Staff Attorney Steve Moore presented at the 22nd Annual California Water Law Conference: Balancing Interests in a Time of Drought.  The conference was held in San Francisco, and Steve presented on Indian Water Rights and the Winters Doctrine as well as the Agua Caliente litigation.  To learn more about the conference, please visit the conference website.

Monday, November 3, 2014

NARF continues to defend voting rights during Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month, picture of rug
November is American Indian & Alaska Native Heritage Month. Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people.  It’s also an opportunity to highlight the important contributions of Native peoples and the shared histories between tribal nations and other communities.

Tomorrow is Election Day.  If you have already voted, thank you.  If you haven’t yet voted, please stop reading now and head to your polling place.  We’ll wait for you here until you return.

In honor of Heritage Month, we want to acknowledge the historical role of democracy in many Native communities. A majority of tribes today elect their leaders through balloting similar to that of the American political system.  Traditional methods of selecting leaders often looked much different.  Talking things through and forming consensus were more common than majority ballots.   But, they were democratic all the same.  The Iroquois Confederacy is a well-known example.

For example, Lakota leaders were chosen by the community because of specific attributes they possessed and demonstrated in everyday life.  If an individual distinguished himself as a hunter, scout or warrior, the community would often look to them for civilian leadership as well.  The qualities that made them successful in those endeavors—clear thinking, good judgment, calmness under stress—would also serve the community well.  Also, traditional Lakota leaders always thought of the needs of the people first and not their own individual needs. It was those attributes that were looked for when the people sought out leaders.

The principle of “one man, one vote” is more than a constitutional right, it is the bedrock of how we as Americans view ourselves as a nation and as a people.  It is both ironic and disgraceful that Native Americans, who have chosen leaders from and by their people for thousands of years, are having their voting rights eroded by the best known democracy in the world.  Yet, the right to vote is under attack in many places, including Indian Country.  A new voter ID law in North Dakota requires voters to have an address with a street number—something many houses on reservations simply don’t have.   The state of Alaska has dragged its feet in providing ballots and voting materials in Yup’ik, the primary language of many Alaska Natives in the Dillingham and Wade Hampton regions.  In other instances, early voting has been curtailed or denied.

NARF is fighting for the voting rights of Native Americans.  In a significant court victory this fall, the State of Alaska was compelled to provide voting materials in Yup’ik and provide bilingual staff to register voters.  However, much work remains to be done, including working with Congress to restore protections lost in Shelby County v. Holder

If you are interested in learning more about NARF's work on voting and other civil rights, please visit the NARF website.  If you are interested in learning more about Native American Heritage Month, please visit the Native American Heritage Month website for more information.