Facing American History with Three Sisters Soup

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It’s the Shabbat after Thanksgiving. Hopefully, you’ve spent your holiday enjoying turkey and pie, relaxing and focusing on what you’re grateful for in a year that has taken so much away from us. I love Thanksgiving, it is a wonderful opportunity to come together with family and enjoy the beauty and bounty of autumn.

It is also a time when we tend to paper over the hard parts of American history. We paint a picture of Native Americans and Pilgrims frozen in one moment of trade and friendship and generosity. The rest of that story, and the ongoing struggles of Native American tribes, gets tucked away never to be discussed.

We don’t want to talk about the violence, the broken treaties, the forced relocation, the vast systemic inequity left by generation after generation of U.S. government betrayal. We treat Native American history as something that ended at that first Thanksgiving dinner, as opposed to a living, breathing injustice. We eat another piece of pie to stifle any lingering discomfort with the day.

As Jews, we know the importance of facing history and learning from past atrocity. When we ignore our history, we cannot learn from it. Native Americans are still here, and many tribes are still facing hardship and struggle. This includes the Wampanoag, the tribe featured so prominently in Thanksgiving lore. They consider Thanksgiving to be a day of mourning.

The Wampanoag have been repeatedly attacked by the Trump Administration, which seeks to rescind their tribal recognition and remove their reservation land from federal trust. The tribe that ensured that Pilgrims survived is having their history and their right to their land attacked in court by the Trump Administration. The story isn’t finished, this history is still unfolding. This history is living.

We have a five-day weekend and we should spend a little time during our holiday and sit with the discomfort, with the tension of what America wants to be, our stated ideals, and our cruel past. Every generation of Americans has the chance to try to live up to our stated ideals. One thing you can do before Shabbat is take a moment to support Rep. Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior. There is a growing chorus calling for her appointment by the Biden transition team. She would be the first Native American Cabinet Member in American history. The Secretary of the Interior oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and this is a historic opportunity to have a Native American woman in charge of Native American destinies. You can sign the petition here and call your Member of Congress and ask them to make this recommendation to the transition team. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to take action.

Native American history did not begin or end with the Pilgrims. It is rich, diverse and worth learning about in its own right. My friend Manilan Houle, who is Ojibwe, shared with me his grandmother’s recipe for Three Sisters Soup.

We adapted it a bit for kashrut, but kept the essential element, the three sisters’ crops, corn, beans and squash. The three sisters are grown together in traditional Native American agriculture, supporting each other as they grow.

This Shabbat, as our country turns the corner towards a new president and a new era of government, we have a new opportunity to support each other’s communities as we work to grow into a country where all of our stated ideals are realized, and we can achieve a more just and equitable society where every community can thrive.

How was your week? How are you spending Shabbat? Let us know at #tweetyourshabbat! Everyone is welcome at this table! Come hungry.

Facing American History with 3 Sisters Soup

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Facing American History with Three Sisters Soup

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