to honor the contributions American Indians have made to the United States.”
This is the first year that National Heritage Day is being celebrated, having been passed into legislation by Congress and signed into existence by President Bush only one month ago. Although controversial, it brings out important points about what we honor and how we honor one another – specifically those tribes who first lived off this land that many of us call home now. It is purposely set for the day after Thanksgiving.
What I am honoring today is the noble and unselfish act of the Wampanoag Indians who kept the pilgrims from starving that first winter in 1621 – this act being referred to as our first Thanksgiving. Their ability to cross cultures, help at a basic humanitarian level, care for feed and teach a foreign group how to survive in an alien environment – is something we can work to achieve as our legacy to the world. It is a heritage to be proud of.
I am also honoring the work being done in my community. I’ve had occasion to participate in many community meetings about healing a divide that has come between the whites and the native tribes in my area. The call to understand one another has been made and a number of efforts have been underway – Ojibwe is taught at the high school, community groups have been educated about tribal customs, a church put on a workshop and talk about white privilege that was attended by an uncommonly large and diverse group, and much more.
I am also honoring a lesson learned about God and mankind. “Anishinaabe” is a word I learned that means “first or original peoples.” A tribal elder explained that in essence, we are all first people. I reasoned that we are all direct descendents from God. Diving below the surface of culture, traditions, history and character, we come to the purely primitive spirituality of who we all are: direct expressions of one God.
Looking at the world, we can claim our native heritage to Truth, to Love and to Life – all of which defines God. From the student at Oxford, to the hostage in Bombay, to the Ojibwe teacher in rural Wisconsin, to the grandparent in Buenos Aires – we share an amazing heritage under one God – from whom we are all directly connected.
This fundamental truth of our common heritage impelled the Wampanoag Indians to help another people to survive and thrive. It is the same fundamental truth that impels us all to prove our heritage and pray for one another, heal one another, and help one another. The outcome of this? Mary Baker Eddy explains it in terms most broad and practical:
One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, "Love thy neighbor as thyself;" annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, — whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed.
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