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Standing with Native Americans: A little Seattle history this Thanksgiving

Seattleites rallied at the Ballard Locks last week to support the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline.

Here’s what’s going on: Over in North Dakota, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe is protesting the construction of an oil pipeline near their reservation because it could pollute their water supply and harm their sacred sites. Other tribes and activists have also traveled to Standing Rock to support them. Here’s more context from Vox.

Now, a little local history: Nearly 50 years ago, Native Americans of the Colville Indian Reservation occupied part of what is now Seattle’s Discovery Park when the federal government said it didn’t need the land any more. But the city of Seattle wanted to buy the land to build a park. So the Native American community occupied the land and were met by police who beat them. Later, the fight went to court and the Native Americans were given 20 acres of the 500-acre Discovery Park, which they used to build the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center. (It still stands there today). KUOW has more on this legacy.

We’re sharing these stories because Native Americans are one of our country’s most marginalized communities. As Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large wrote, “Indigenous people in the Americas have been fighting in one way or another for more than 500 years against conquest, marginalization, exploitation. When will they not constantly have to affirm their rights?”

Some Native Americans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving for many reasons, including that it perpetuates a false history (explained here by Vox). Some, like Rev. Randy Woodley, do, but with a message of generosity we find poignant in light of our political climate. Randy wrote in this Huffington Post piece in 2012, “Be thankful and educate yourselves concerning the real history of America and use this time to encourage reconciliation between your family and those who share a different history. By you reaching out to others, this could be an important first step to healing our land and our nation.”

By Anika Anand
Anika Anand is a cofounder of The Evergrey. She previously worked at The Seattle Times Education Lab and Chalkbeat.