Acknowledging the Past

What we can learn from Australia


I must admit to feeling conflicted these days… Considering all the traditional food and wine, it should be no surprise Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Despite what we were taught in school, however, Native Americans did not harmoniously join White settlers for a celebratory feast. In our unwavering pursuit of exploration and territory acquisition, we caused devastation in the form of infection, famine and conflict to the Native Peoples. We claimed their land as our own, forcibly relocating them to grim, undesirable reservation parcels. Although designated as Sovereign Nations, tribes and their members are routinely dismissed by society.

As this issue goes to print, I’m in Australia for the first time. Before departing, I did some research. Interestingly, website after website had an “acknowledge of country” message. While the language differs, the sentiment remains: recognizing the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. Each pays respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

Along with online proclamations, acknowledgments are encouraged at the start of all types of meetings, gatherings and government functions. It’s Australia’s way of recognizing– as well as including– marginalized and excluded indigenous people after White people invaded their lands. It feels quite powerful to encounter the messaging everywhere. Colonial genocide caused devastating land dispossession, violence and racism. Today, citizens are more actively working toward an equitable and reconciled Australia. I can’t help wonder why we aren’t doing the same.

Native Americans are part of a conveniently forgotten episode in our country’s development. As of 2021, Columbus Day is also known as Indigenous Peoples Day, only one tiny step toward welcoming these marginalized groups into critical conversations. In this “new” era of diversity, equity and inclusion, we must do better.

November is Native American Heritage Month. Can you name the original custodians of the land where you live? Learn more on Travel Oregon’s website:

Michele Francisco spent her childhood reading and writing, eventually graduating from UCLA with an English degree. She attended graphic design school and began a career in design and marketing. After moving to Oregon in 2010, Michele studied wine at Chemeketa Community College and began Winerabble, a Northwest-focused wine blog. She has been a cheerleader for Oregon wine since her arrival.

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