Before the mid-term elections, President Trump stirred up his base by warning them about an immigrant hoard that was coming to take over the United States. He called them terrorists and criminals and sent 15,000 military personnel to “defend our border.” I am an open-border kind of person. I think anyone who wants to come to the United States should be allowed to come. Did you know we didn’t have laws regulating who could immigrate to the US until 1875 when Asian contract laborers were banned? Today, with companies desperate for unskilled labor, I say – let whoever wants to come, come. There is room (as there has always been) for people who want to be Americans. And we should help them get off on the right foot. After all, we have a very long history of Americans feeding illegal immigrants. You could say it is a Thanksgiving tradition.
Of course, by Americans, I mean the indigenous people who lived here long before Euro-Americans started to arrive. Tom and I have worked all over the United States now, and lived on two Indians reservations. Everyplace we go, there are stories about Euro-Americans who would have starved if they had not been fed by the indigenous people.
We can start with the Pilgrims in Massachusetts who would not have survived their first year without the Wampanoags showing them how to grow native crops and sharing food. This is the story we remember and celebrate on Thanksgiving Day. But indigenous people in other places were just as generous. When the Spanish first came to Florida in 1513, the Calusa fed them and traded with them. The Creek traded with and helped the first settlers to Georgia survive. The Puebloan Indians welcomed the Spanish, giving them provisions until the Spanish decided to enslave them. The first encounter between the Paiute and the Spanish was saving Fathers Dominguez and Escalante from starving on a scouting mission.
Thanksgiving Day seems like a good time to consider immigrants from the real American perspective. After all, we are the illegal immigrants in their eyes. We stole their land and gave them diseases that killed 90% of their population. We broke every treaty we signed with them and shoved them on land that no one else wanted. Even that land was taken away if gold or coal or silver was found on it. We treated indigenous people as less than human and did not value their well-developed cultures or sustainable practices.
So, today, on Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for the indigenous people who welcomed and helped the illegal immigrants that came to steal their land. I had an ancestor on the Mayflower, and I am glad he survived due to the generosity of strangers. I am thankful for real American who welcomed people from a different culture. And I, as a real American today, pledge to do the same.