Thursday, November 26, 2009

An American Indian Gives Thanks

"Heritage tells you who you are, from the cradle to the grave. It tells you who you were before you came to the earth. It tells you where you're going when you leave here. It's a never-ending circle of life and you feel able to deal with a lot of the things that this world puts on you." Tim Moore, American Indian from the Seminole Tribe.

Thanksgiving is a holiday observed in the United States on the fourth Thursday of every November. It’s an occasion when Americans give thanks for their blessings of food, family, or whatever matters the most, whatever the circumstances.

The tradition, as the story that is taught in American schools goes, has its roots in the experience of a small group of European colonizers.

These colonizers survived their first difficult winter in a "New England" settlement (parts of the U.S. northeast still use this name) -- short of food and supplies -- largely because of the generous assistance of the local Wampanoag Indian tribe. Their first Thanksgiving dinner was a simple feast of wild fowl and greens and tubers, and offerings of thanks to God and to their Indian friends.

Fifty years later, the Wampanoags and the Plimoth Colony settlers would be at war with each other over land rights and other issues. Many American Indians today believe they lost a great deal when European colonizers arrived in the so-called “New World” – where many Indian tribes had already lived for tens of thousands of years. As those settlers began exploring, trading, cultivating and eventually building towns and cities across North America, the indigenous people were forced to abandon their ancestral lands.

But many of the direct descendants of those American Indian tribes – those that survived war, eviction and disease – still honor their lineage by keeping tribal customs and philosophies intact.

Tim Moore, who earns his paycheck as a government worker during the week, joins other American Indians each weekend to proudly showcase traditional dancing and crafts.

A Vietnam War veteran, Moore says he is grateful that in his Native American community, former soldiers are never forgotten or frowned upon, even if there is disagreement over whether the war in which they fought was just or unjust.

In this slideshow, Moore shares some of the wisdom he has gained in the course of a unique life lived in two parallel cultures.