Hakamé! Greetings from Shinnecock!
Happy Thanksgiving! If you are looking for some post-holiday fun tomorrow, head over to East Hampton High School for the Kendall Madison Foundation’s double-header alumni basketball game, “East End Rivalries Continue,” starting at 6 p.m. sharp. The East Hampton Bonackers will play the Pierson Whalers and the Bridgehampton Killer Bees will play the Southampton Mariners. Admission to this annual event is $10 for adults and $5 for kids, plus, there will be 50/50 raffle tickets, refreshments, and Kendall Madison Playaz apparel available for purchase.
Now that our bellies are stuffed, how about some food for thought ... We all know the basis for this most delicious holiday: the welcoming Indians taught the newly arrived Pilgrims how to survive and share the land. However, the centuries of genocide that followed were anything but respectful to that relationship. And while progress has been made, we are sad to admit that the disrespect and desecration continue.
In the movie “Avatar” we witnessed the threat of a culture becoming extinct in the name of progress—now take off the 3D glasses and look around, because this is happening right now! For instance, the Brazilian government proposes to install the Belo Monte Dam to generate “safe” hydropower energy and create new jobs. The dam will flood a large portion of the Amazon Rainforest, destroying much of its mysterious and sensitive ecosystem while slowly displacing and eventually starving to death the aboriginal societies that live there (www.AmazonWatch.com).
We can all agree that health and the means to survive are basic human rights to which every living being is entitled. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People outlines guidelines for this basic human respect, and was adopted by a number of countries worldwide including Canada, United States and Brazil. However, getting governments to respect this declaration is a trying feat.
Over the years, Canada has tacitly allowed the survival of more than 61 of its First Nation communities to be threatened by toxic tar-sands pipelines. From the two barrels of water—a valuable and depleting natural resource—it takes to produce one barrel of oil, pools of toxic waste are left behind to seep into nearby streams, rivers and underground reservoirs, damaging precious water supplies and upsetting surrounding habitats. Dene and other First Nation communities have reported high rates of cancer, changes in the migration routes of salmon that they rely heavily on as a food staple, and unnatural occurrences such as beavers with four legs on each side of their bodies.
It is because of these environmental threats that big name advocates such as Mark Ruffalo, Darryl Hannah and Robert Redford have stepped up to lead a national protest against the tar-sands pipeline which is currently under consideration to be extended over the Canadian/US border down into Texas. Keystone, the company behind the pipeline, contends that its extension will allow for lower fuel prices and the creation of new jobs. But again: of what worth is this small progress if it includes a threat to public health and the environment?
No one listened when it was just the indigenous communities that were being affected. We hope that this new platform of attention will allow the public to realize that this problem doesn’t just stop with preventing the installation of the American expansion of the pipeline, but that it continues with the fight to discontinue the use of the pipelines in Canada. In addition to notable activists, we hope that government officials and a concerned public will realize how desecration is still being committed against indigenous peoples and that they sign on to help put an end to this misuse of power.
Even some of our own officials have been fooled into believing everything is on the up-and-up. What comes to mind is Assembly of First Nations national Chief Shawn Atleo’s statement that energy and mining industries are the “new fur trade” for First Nation communities.
It may not seem that just a couple hundred stolen acres here and an intrusive, toxic gold, oil or waste mine there could amount to much, but the Ramapough Lenape Nation of New Jersey—to name only one—whose people were poisoned from 30 years of toxic waste dumping by Ford Motor Company, would tell you otherwise. Be it in our own backyard or in countries where aboriginal societies still exist in their pristine state, we can no longer allow indigenous people be a casualty of big business. What would we have to be thankful for then?