Refusing the Legacy of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has got me thinking about how the militarization of the US extends all the way back to the pre-colonial days of Pilgrims and other white settlers arriving on the shores of this continent. In addition to the land they claimed, they decided they had a claim to the lives of the American Indians who lived here too; whether as slaves, as cheap labor, as sources of exploitable wisdom and goods, or as people to be eradicated to make way for white Christians.

To protect this claim, settlers swindled the nations and tribes already living on the land. They used the knowledge of American Indians to survive and then murdered and enslaved them. As Dennis W. Zotigh, author of Do American Indians celebrate Thanksgiving?, describes:

Squanto was introduced to the Pilgrims in the spring of 1621, became friends with them, and taught them how to hunt and fish in order to survive in New England. He taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn by using fish as fertilizer and how to plant gourds around the corn so that the vines could climb the cornstalks. Due to his knowledge of English, the Pilgrims made Squanto an interpreter and emissary between the English and Wampanoag Confederacy….

On May 26, 1637, near the present-day Mystic River in Connecticut, while their warriors were away, an estimated 400 to 700 Pequot women, children, and old men were massacred and burned by combined forces of the Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, and Saybrook (Connecticut) colonies and Narragansett and Mohegan allies. Colonial authorities found justification to kill most of the Pequot men and enslave the captured women and their children.

That very same year, the Algonquins became the earliest known war tax resisters on this continent, by refusing to pay a tax levied on them to renovate a Dutch fort.

The military might of the European colonies and the military might of the United States has been used almost uncountable times to control, harm, and kill American Indians, in vast numbers amounting to a centuries-long genocide. That military has always been funded by taxes.

Painting: Capture and death of the Indian chief Sitting Bull.
Painting: Capture and death of the Indian chief Sitting Bull (from

It is easy to focus on the enormity of the modern US military and its global tentacles. While the military is bigger than it’s ever been, it’s never been an agent of justice no matter its size, and especially not where indigenous peoples are concerned.

This year while I’m with my family on Thanksgiving, I’m pledging to think and talk about the native people who were killed in my region so that white settlers could claim what they felt was their birthright, and the native people who continue to live here remembering that legacy of violence and seeing its results all around them.

And this reinforces my decision not to pay taxes to fund the US military, which carried out this violence before, and continues to perpetrate violence in different ways here and around the world. I cannot personally end militarism, racism, or colonialism this way, but I can refuse to be part of it and redirect my attention and resources for justice.

Post by Erica

P.S. For more on this, check out this week’s episode of The Empire Files with Abby Martin, Native American Genocide, featuring Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. (Abby Martin also had war tax resister Ed Hedemann on her previous show, Breaking the Set.)

Share:Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on StumbleUponShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on Tumblr

Divest from Weapons and Warmaking: WTRs in Las Vegas

On November 6-8, a small group of stalwart NWTRCC network members gathered in Las Vegas for community time, discussion of outreach tactics, and a vigil outside Nellis Air Force Base. It was a fun time as always.

Rick, Erica, and Bill at Harrison House with Katherine (second from left), who works there.

The Administrative Committee met on Friday to review the budget, objectives, and proposals. We finished on time and had time to take a walk around the neighborhood, seeing the beautiful murals of prominent black people in the history of Las Vegas. We also got a tour of Harrison House, which was a popular place to stay for black performers in the 1940s and 1950s, who were prohibited from staying or eating in the hotels and casinos they performed at. The house is now gradually being restored and will become a transitional house for veterans.

Jennifer Carr giving her talk about the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Bill on Friday night.

On Friday night, Jennifer Carr, a professor at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas Boyd School of Law, shared her analysis of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Bill. Her article, entitled “Complicity and Collection: Religious Freedom and Tax,” makes suggestions about changes that may make this bill more palatable to Congress and other people (abstract and download). Her talk was recorded and will be shared on the NWTRCC website as soon as it has been edited! (For more on this issue, see our blog post on Peter Goldberger’s talk in November 2014.)

We spent Saturday morning talking about war tax resistance outreach and updating each other on our resistance strategies. One major topic of conversation was the need to make connections with other groups and to meet prospective resisters where they’re at. Climate change, anti-police brutality, and black-led organizations were some of the groups mentioned as possible connections. After lunch many of us sat down to continue that train of thought, developing thoughts around the proposal for NWTRCC to support affiliates in organizing Tax Day outreach events.

Right-to-left: Robert, J.R., and Peter holding signs outside Nellis Air Force Base.

We had debated about where to do our planned vigil in the afternoon. Creech Air Force Base, from where drones are tested and piloted, was just a bit too far from Las Vegas to fit it into our schedule. We settled on Nellis Air Force Base, where some nuclear weapons are kept. Our unannounced vigil drew the attention of base police and local police, but went strong for about an hour, until the encroaching darkness drove folks back indoors for dinner.

After dinner, some folks settled in for the night, while one car of intrepid explorers set off to experience the spectacle of the Las Vegas Strip. (Despite clear requests to win big for NWTRCC at the slot machines, however, the adventurers failed to deliver the $20,000 or even just $10,000 we asked for. Maybe next time.)

Group photo after the Sunday business meeting.

Our Sunday morning business meeting addressed NWTRCC’s 2016 budget and objectives, as well as three proposals for the Coordinating Committee to evaluate. We also discussed a developing comic book proposal. We approved NWTRCC’s largest budget yet, including funds for affiliates to do Tax Day events with other local groups. (Does your local group want to partner with new/existing allies in your area? Contact NWTRCC, since we may be able to help with funds and/or publicity.) We also endorsed Campaign Nonviolence.

Like Jennifer Carr’s talk and a couple of discussions on Saturday, the business meeting was open to remote listening and participation from members of our network, and we had several folks join us throughout. We will continue to provide a “virtual meeting” option as we meet, and also continue to improve our setup and processes! Thanks to all who called in.

“I think that’s a turtle statue.” “No, its head moved, I saw it!”

In the afternoon, those of us who were left took a little trip to some wetlands (yes, they have wetlands in Las Vegas), and found ourselves pondering whether a turtle perched on a rock in a pond was a sculpture or real.

Thank you to our host, Las Vegas Catholic Worker, for accommodations, food, and help transporting all of us around Las Vegas.

Check out more photos from the weekend here.

Petey the cat was a frequent presence throughout the weekend. War tax resistance needs more cat memes! How should we caption this?
Catholic Workers Gary and Julia extended great hospitality to our group. Thank you!


Post by Erica

Share:Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on StumbleUponShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on Tumblr

On Armistice Day, Remember: Wars Cannot End Wars

Armistice Day marked the formal agreement between Germany and the Allied forces to stop fighting on 11/11/1918. The war that ended that day was considered in 1918 to be the “war to end all wars” and so a holiday marking its cessation was declared a year later by President Wilson.

In 1926 Congress made Armistice Day official, noting “it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date (marking the cessation “of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed”) should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”

Unfortunately, the war that ended in 1918 did not end all wars. Ending the carnage of war is something that only peace, justice, and mutual understandings can do – along with a lot of hard work and effort to see the common humanity and needs, hopes and dreams of other people.

The “Great War” was named World War I after a second, even more horrific, war was waged. The United States fought WWII, followed by wars in Korea, Viet Nam, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, and more. Additionally, the United States funds the wars on drugs that have killed thousands of people in Colombia and Mexico; and has incited revolutions in Chile, El Salvador and Haiti that removed their elected leaders. The U.S. continues to support Israel’s violent occupation of Palestinian territories and seizures of Palestinian homelands; and the U.S. financially supported the wars Israel waged against Gaza and Lebanon. Our country engages in “endless” wars abroad, while a culture of violence at home devalues lives of people of color, immigrants, those who are poor and/or disabled, and even students.

President Eisenhower and Congress renamed Armistice Day as Veterans Day in 1954 to recognize all veterans who have made great personal sacrifices while serving in the military.

Many veterans have come home with injuries that may last a lifetime. They may suffer physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and financially as they try to re-enter civilian life. The rates of homelessness and suicide are high.

A member of Veterans for Peace in Seattle leaflets with War Resisters League’s pie chart, Tax Day 2012.

How can we honor veterans in tangible ways on Veterans Day?

  1. Befriend veterans and help them get the medical care and educational and financial resources they need to live hopeful and productive lives at home. If the money budgeted to keep soldiers on the battlefield was used to help them when they return home, it would go a long way toward making America a great place to live.
  2. Follow the directions in the Armistice Day proclamation and do “exercises designed to perpetuate peace” such as truth telling; learning to know, love, and care about people who seem different from ourselves (Travel is a wonderful way to do this!); and supporting our leaders’ engagement in diplomatic relationships.
  3. Stop glamorizing war. Say no to military action figures for our children or video war games for our teens. Question the promises made by military recruiters. Make room for young adults in the civilian job market. Reorder our country’s priorities and deflate the military budget.

We can’t win peace by waging war. Let us instead join hands as we struggle to be transformed by a love which really makes a difference.

Post by Susan Miller

Share:Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on StumbleUponShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on Tumblr