The Native presence has taken on an invigorating experience in the past year of U.S. herstory. From supporting the #Black Lives Matter campaign, and then kicking off the #Native Lives Matter campaign. They were a visible force w hen First Lady Michelle Obama invited Native youth to the White House for the Native Youth Challenge on April 8, 2015. The people of the land reminded the U.S. that they are still here.
This reminder proved ever true, and was reciprocated at the American University in Cairo’s Thanksgiving Day celebration on November 25, 2015, on the New Cairo campus. As Egyptian and International students gathered to enjoy the feast, and listen to the story!
Ah yes! The story, spoken and presented by U.S. Consular General Sean Murphy, where he enchanted audience members of the first Thanksgiving dinner in the United States. The authenticity surrounding Thanksgiving was being revealed. More than a show of turkeys and past imitations of specific Native tribes depiction of feathers by previous students; by those who were unfamiliar.
On the contrary, a story and recognition of a culture who first showed the true meaning of Thanksgiving in the New World. The Wampanoag, and their compassion for pilgrims is the highlight of the story. What is also highlighted is that Consular General Sean Murphy’s recognized their existence.
To be recognized means that the existence of your humanity is honored. It means that your presence is not rendered invisible, or transformed into a mythical, distant figure, who faded away into history; whose only present vigilance was for mockery, or a worn costume.
For Consular General Murphy to recognize the Wampanoag people as inclusive in U.S. and Native her/history showed Egyptian students (and reminded U.S. and other international students) that the United States of America does have a culture, indigenous to the land. That it is not merely a rich nation, with the sole face of economic gain and prosperity, luxurious travel for Egyptian people, fortunate enough to have gotten the passport, or a place to escape to, during times of crisis or turmoil. No. The mention of the Wampanoag was more than that. What is symbolized is that every soil of the land known as the United States of American is filled with the memory, sweat, and even the blood of the First Nation People, who once populated the land.
Nations and tribes of men, women, who saw (and still see) that we come from the Earth, eat from the Earth, drink from the Earth, and return back to the Earth. And are therefore indebted to the Earth.
Such was one principle taken away from that Thanksgiving evening’s dinner, and its relevance to Cairo. A vivid applause rang in Moataz Al Alfi Hall after Consular General ended his speech. And such a principle was a painting for the following.
The abundance of life through fellowship, the importance of a remembered people in their past. . .and their honor in the present.