NCAI President Jefferson Keel Calls for Respect This Thanksgiving Season

National Congress of American Indians President Jefferson Keel (Chickasaw)

Thanksgiving 2017

Published November 23, 2017

WASHINGTON – As we approach the end of Native American Heritage Month and the country celebrates Thanksgiving, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Jefferson Keel expresses the importance of reflecting on, respecting, and celebrating the hundreds of Native nations and cultures across the country that contribute to the diversity that makes the United States great.

“As you’re sitting down around the table to give thanks, please remember the many contributions Native Americans have made and continue to make, notable among them our cultures, food, ecological knowledge and stewardship, and service to our country.

“Historically, many Native nations celebrate this important time of the harvest season. It’s a time to extend our gratitude for abundant harvests. It’s a day that also brings Native people into the national conversation. As we reflect on the history and perseverance of Native Americans, we are reminded that we were here long before the United States became the United States.

“To this day, our resilient cultures and lifeways nurture deep and abiding human connections to our natural world and all living things within it. We give thanks to the Creator for instilling in us the values and tools that we need to protect that world and create prosperous futures for our generations yet to come.

“In this time of gratitude and reunion, we must also recognize the warriors who protect our homeland, many of whom may be far from home today. We give thanks to those who defend our country, including our Native men and women, who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces at a higher rate than any other group in the country.

“With all that Native peoples have sacrificed for this country, this Thanksgiving is an interesting one. The Washington, D.C. football team will play against the New York Giants today. We ask that as you watch Washington D.C.’s football team to honor the spirit of the day and not use the Washington team’s name out of respect for our Native peoples. The name is a dictionary-defined racial slur. There is no respect in the name and its continued use is wrong.

“We are hopeful that you will pledge to honor this modest request out of respect for the First Peoples of this land. And remember we are still here, strong and proud.”

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