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The Great Harvesters 

Giving thanks to those whose good hearts and strong hands make our turkey dinners possible

  • Caleb Walsh illustration

Thanksgiving is what indigenous people have celebrated as harvest for a millenia. It's a time to remember that we are blessed to live on such a bountiful Earth. It's also a time to remember and thank those who do the harvesting.

click to enlarge tara-dowd.jpg

In modern times, Americans are really disconnected from the original purpose of Thanksgiving. Sure, we take the time to be thankful for our family, friends and the good life. But we forget to thank the people who harvest our food and thank the Earth, from which all life comes.

In our modern food economy, the majority of Americans get their food at the local grocery store, which most likely gets it from a big corporation. For several decades, the small, local farmer has become a relic of the past. But between the family holdouts — please buy local, if possible — and the big corporations, our food has to be harvested by someone.

These harvesters are hardworking, efficient and the least expensive laborers available. They are willing to do work that most Americans can't, won't and would sell their first-born to avoid. Harvesting is painful and hard. It takes a toll on the body in a way that desk jobs don't. But rarely do we hear a peep from the harvesters about work conditions, pay, job security or benefits.

Of course, the majority of harvesters are Latino people. In Indian Country, they are considered indigenous brothers and sisters from the south. Before colonization, there were no imaginary borders. To this day, most tribal people do not agree to the doctrine that led to the formation of borders that separated tribes and families for generations, both in the north and the south.

With all the hate that Donald Trump spews about Latinos, it seems that perceptions of our harvesters have continued to be rooted in that same hatred. The truth is that other Americans don't want to do the work that our Latino brothers and sisters are willing to do. Saying "other Americans" is purposeful, because we have to assume that most Latinos in America actually are documented. Despite the hateful stereotypes that the Republican presidential nominee and his supporters perpetuate in our society, most Latinos are here legally and ethically.

It is ironic that many descendants of colonizers — the first immigrants — of North America now want to build a wall against the indigenous people of Central America, all while eating food that those same people have harvested with good hearts and strong hands.

When biting into a scrumptious apple grown in the Pacific Northwest, imagine a mother and father working hard to provide their children with the very American dream every "immigrant" hopes to provide their family — for their children to become doctors, teachers, lawyers, scientists. They bring their dreams and hopes, and then they enrich our communities with their beautiful culture and hearts. By example, they teach us what hard work really looks like; without them, the food industry would collapse, flat out. Truly, America is better culturally and economically because our brothers and sisters from the south have decided to live with us.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, give thanks for our farming industry and to the bountiful Earth. Even more, please say a prayer of thanks to the harvesters who sacrifice so much to put delicious Thanksgiving food on our tables. ♦

Tara Dowd, an enrolled Inupiaq Eskimo, was born into poverty and now owns a diversity consulting business. She is an advocate for systemic equity and sees justice as a force that makes communities better.

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