UNR at Lake Tahoe DEI Specialist Anza Jarschke (they/them) shares their insights about the upcoming holiday and how we can all better educate ourselves and celebrate this time of year
To start, I invite you all to join me in acknowledging that here at the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe, we are situated on the traditional homelands of the Wašiw (Washoe) people. These lands continue to be a gathering place for Indigenous Peoples, and we recognize their deep connections to this place. We extend our appreciation for the opportunity to live, learn, and celebrate on their territory.
For those traveling home or to loved ones this week, I encourage you to look up and learn the names of the indigenous peoples of those lands. This year, I will gather with my loved ones on Wappo and Me-Wuk land.
Over the next week, as we gather to share in the tradition of Thanksgiving, I offer you a taste of “Truthsgiving.” While it is tempting to ignore the fraught history and focus on gratitude and meal sharing, it is vital to honor alternative standpoints that are often overshadowed by images of pilgrims and Indians at Plymouth Rock. (For example, does anyone know the name of the First Nations people that the Mayflower encountered? The Wampanoag. What about the indigenous nation that was massacred and then celebrated with a fall feast? The Pequot Nation.) I also want to highlight that while November is Native Heritage Month, and thus these conversations are timely, they are essential every day, year-round.
While the presiding narrative around Thanksgiving erases many historical truths for Native Peoples, it also obscures the genocide, sexual violence, and destruction of communities that they continue to face. Giving preference to these distorted narratives diverts our attention from current Indigenous efforts to protect their lands and communities. Let us not forget recent and current efforts even in our local region: indigenous communities have advocated for the Olympic Valley name change, the removal of the sundown siren in Minden, and the protection of Thacker Pass (Peehee mm’huh) from lithium mining on the sacred, unceded territory of the Paiute and Shoshone people.
This is a time to honor the true history of First Nations People and highlight the positive impacts made by Native people. In the last year at UNR, the University established an Office of Indigenous Relations, a NAGPRA Coordinator, an Indigenous Living Learning Community in Residential Life, and continues the Indigenous Student Services office. These spaces and commitments demonstrate that indigenous issues are a priority for the University. From efforts of language preservation and conversations with elders, to the land acknowledgment of university grounds, we are fortunate to be surrounded by people, programming, and endeavors that celebrate the richness of indigenous cultures today.
Today we give thanks for what we have; the rights and freedoms we enjoy. However, we would do well to remember that not everyone has these same rights and freedoms. So please join me in a moment of silence and remembrance for the Washoe and other indigenous peoples who continue to honor and steward the lands we so enjoy calling home.
Thank you, and happy Truthsgiving,
About the author
Anza Jarschke (they/them) is the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Specialist for UNR at Lake Tahoe and Coordinator of the MFA Low-Residency Programs. They aim to be a truth teller, relentless co-conspirator, and positive force for change. Anza holds degrees in Social Justice and Community Organizing, Psychology, and Fine Arts.