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The Gilded Serpent presents...
Personal Perspective

by Sierra/Sadira

I sit at my computer and think of the massive amounts of information we receive via the Internet. Ex-Vice President Gore said he believed that this was the way to becoming a future global village, an International highway.

We can access anything imaginable we want, find research on things we need to know, and create intimacy with friends far away. There are so many things both positive and negative that can be sent or accomplished through this computer wonderland.

When television was invented, sociologists viewed this wondrous technology of instant communication as a leap into a new world In which we could teach everyone in its grasp the greatest literature, plays, up to the minute access to news, and to educate millions of people, and a new generation. Television was thought to have the ability to make great change for our lives through its usage. Television does do these things, but not in the grandiose way that sociologists thought at the time. Actually it may be creating a society that has become over-saturated with violence, death, and images of the macabre. Along with this saturation, many become so used to these images and thoughts, that they seem to have become a reality. When you see a movie, a television show, or a PBS special that truly causes one to think, to become involved, to learn something provocative, new... That is generating the positive role model to which television should commit in my opinion.

When we write e-mails and send jokes, or look up favorite articles on the computer, it is as powerful as entering the great Library of Alexandria may have been. Yet we also hear about child pornography, sex rings, predators, groups, and clubs enlisting more and more impressionable people to cultist hate groups by using e-mail.

So I ask myself, what responsibility does a person have towards the audience who is reading their material online? Do we censor ourselves, afraid of offending others with personal statements and staying within the safe margins of acceptability?

Do we go way out on a limb and offer information that may be considered unwelcome by some and offensive to others? Or does an author have the right to inherently, under his name, step into a new world of writing, so that others may have the right to view it and then judge it for themselves?

I have written many articles for this magazine and others. The article that I wrote which I felt most passionately was the one regarding the Romany people and the cultural assimilation and degradation of these traditional people and their dance, as seen through current American dance trends. (To see my views regarding that perspective please refer to my article "Nomads of the Spirit".)

When the events of September 11th happened, we were all aware that besides the terrorism element, we have incorporated ourselves into a dance form and culture that originates and represents the lands of the Middle East.

We embraced this community and Middle Eastern friends, restaurant owners, musicians, etc. to let them know that we dancers had a special heart of understanding to not to let race or hate define a people or a culture.

So much is happening right now in the Middle East, and we write about our dance shows and events, travels and remembrances, but no one dares takes a step to mention political strife. Politics does make for controversy! I believe that without making a mention of the world events that are facing our lives and incorporating the world as a whole, we become complacent.

A political piece does not automatically assume that all agree, it is just a perspective, or historical commentary. Hopefully it allows us to utilize our own intellectual gifts in which to evaluate and become more empowered with different spects of knowledge.

Because this is a magazine dedicated to Middle Eastern Dance, and Music, how does that define an author who wishes to write about circumstances in the Middle East? The Middle East is the birthing place of our dance community and its existence. I truly don't know.... I realize this is not a political forum. However all great magazines, books, literature, television, movies, schooling, teaching should strive to give light on the hidden areas, the invisibility of unjustness.

As we dance, we celebrate art and the beauty that that art places in social and cultural identities.

I have been, for almost 30 years, a dancer, a teacher, a troupe director, a workshop teacher, and a writer in Middle Eastern, North African dance. I hope I always write with integrity and honesty. Not only am I a dancer, I am, and have been, a student, a wife, a daughter, a childbirth educator/labor coach, an RN student, a body-worker that incorporates Reiki Master and Acupressure. I hold a B.S. degree in Health Education and minor in American Indian Studies. I have worked in the Native American Community for over 24 years as an advocate, mediator, outreach worker, liaison and community member. All of us in our whole parts are so much more than the definition that the dance gives us. That is why I am writing this piece of history regarding the American Indians and the original Thanksgiving. I feel it is important that ignorance and domination of a lie be challenged and addressed. We can no longer stand by and hope to look down at the seven generations in front of us and be proud that the realities of the history of our own land and beginnings were fabricated.

Because Thanksgiving is approaching, and, amusingly, November was dedicated four years ago by ex-president Clinton as Native American History month, I am submitting this true walk through our past, so that we never repeat the same atrocities or let the generations think that that is the way of walking in truth and knowing the truth. As Eldridge Cleaver once said, " If you're not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem."

Thanksgiving is a beautiful day. It is the beginning of harvest, when we gather those foods around us that will sustain us through winter until spring. Thanksgiving is a time to truly look at the blessings of Mother Earth in what she supplies us in bounty and sustenance, and in our relationships that supply us with love and support.

Thanksgiving is a time of selflessness and knowing where our blessings lie. Surely in this Time, as we face unknown perils of looming war, economic hardships, and unexplainable Violence, we all need to remember for what we aught to be thankful.

I come as a messenger not to destroy Thanksgiving, but to amend the lies and grievous events that took place in America that officially sanctioned the day we know as Thanksgiving. I am here to strip away the Disney fantasy of the Indians and pilgrims, joyously, and together sharing foods around a large table, welcoming and helping each other.

When the English settlers arrived on North American shores, they were poorly prepared to know how to survive in this Eco-system and were hungry and starving. The first Indians who met some of the settlers did show them how to grow the America's staple foods: corn, squash, beans.

Yet, the first official Thanksgiving as we know it wasn't a festive gathering of Indians and Pilgrims, but rather a celebration of the massacre of 700 Indian men, women, and children as documented historically and anthropologically.

William B Newell tells us the truth about this day. " Thanksgiving Day was first officially proclaimed by the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637 to commemorate the massacre of 700 men, women and children who were celebrating their annual green corn dance (Thanksgiving Day to them), in their own lodges.” Gathered in this meeting place, they were attacked by English and Dutch mercenaries. The Indians were ordered from the building and as they came forth, they were shot down. The rest were burned alive in their longhouse.

Newell's research is based on studies of Dutch documents and the 13 Volume Colonial Documentary History, both thick sets of letters and reports from colonial officials to their superiors and the King of England along with the private papers of Sir William Johnson, (a British Indian agent for the New York colony for 30 yrs. in the mid 1600s).

"My research is authentic, because it's documentary. You can't get anything more accurate than that, because it's firsthand, it's not hearsay". Newell, a Penobscot Indian, has degrees from Syracuse and the University of Pennsylvania, Chairman of the Department of Anthropology, and Museum Advisor, University of Connecticut.

Newell says that the next 100 Thanksgivings commemorated the killing of the Indians at what is now Groton, Connecticut, rather than a celebration with them.

The very next day, the governor declared a Thanksgiving Day, thanking God that they had eliminated those 700 men, women and children, and that they had wiped out the Pequot Tribe. It was later that Thanksgiving was proclaimed an annual holiday by the newly developing United States.

I write this in honor of the people whose land this was originally, the people who now belong to this land, and our generations to come. We will no longer tolerate genocide in any form, whether from Nazi Germany of WWII, or the genocide of Armenians in the 1920s, or of the Kurds recently by Sadaam Hussein. As we embark towards a future that included the terrors of 9/11, let us hope that voices raised in truth and integrity never allow this type of injustice to remain invisible again.

Appendix Notes
Here are the appendix sites for people to use on the internet to look up information regarding the first Thanksgiving......
1. (Or go to Google and type in William Newell and Thanksgiving Day History)
4. 3- 9646.html

** In various cities, Native American's hold special religious ceremonial events to commemorate the memory of their ancestor's blood that has been sacrificed, the lands that have been taken and to create awareness of true Native American people and their unity.

In Plymouth, Massachusetts on Nov. 28, 20002 they will have their 33rd National Day of Mourning. This is an annual tradition since 1970. The Day of Mourning is a solemn, spiritual and highly political day. Many fast from sundown the day before through to the afternoon of "Thanksgiving Day". At the end of the ceremony, a social gathering is held. mourning our ancestors and the genocide of our peoples and the theft of our lands", which also includes a march through the historic district of Plymouth.

In San Francisco ,California....there is always held the traditional Sunrise Ceremony at Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz Island is used, due to it's important historical and political contribution to the beginning movement towards Native sovereignty rights, land title, and political empowerment. About an hour before sunrise, a fleet of boats leave the Pier at San Francisco wharf, heading towards Alcatraz Island. On the boats are many Native American community leaders, political activists, spiritual leaders; along with the participants of the ceremony. There are usually two drum groups and singers who begin the drumming and singing as the boats leave. They then lead the procession with the spiritual leaders carrying the eagle staff and buffalo skull reserved for sacred ceremonies; up the strong incline of Alcatraz. Behind them, stream 100's of Native and non Native Americans, who come to join in ceremony of remembrance to the ancestors, those who lived on this land, those who died, and to those who carry the generations. It is a blessing , a prayer for Mother Earth, and all her inhabitants to bring peace to the world, and that no one forgets the atrocities committed upon a Nation of People. There is songs, prayers, Aztec dancers, and Pomo dancers who represent the California Natives. There are speeches, and many prayers said as the sun rises above the ruins of Alcatraz, in the fog, rain and cold. The sacred fire takes the prayers of those who come to attend. Afterwards, many Indian community centers hold social gatherings that include free meals to who ever comes to their doors. And yes, it is the traditional Thanksgiving food, along with Native additions such as Fry Bread, Beans, and Chili.

--This article is the sole opinion of the author and is in no way affiliated as opinions shared by the Gilded Serpent magazine, it's editor, it's contributors, or Board of Directors.

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