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Friday, November 28, 2008

The Truth About Thanksgiving

While many Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, many Native Americans do not. Most of the Thanksgiving story is constructed from a set of myths which not only don't match the historical record but which also hide some of the more shameful facts about colonial America.
According to Native organization, Oyate, among the myths that are taught to our children are included the following:

1. The claim that the first thanksgiving occurred in 1621 is a myth. In fact,  First nations people have always celebrated Harvest Feasts of some kind. Here in the Southeast, the Seminole, Cherokee, Muskogee peoples among others celebrate the Green Corn Festival.

2. The claim that the first colonists who celebrated the "first thanksgiving" were pilgrims  and innocent refugees seeking "freedom of religion" is a myth. In fact at the time of their landfall, many Native Americans had already been enslaved and brought back to England and the early colonists had already determined that these people were heathens and not a part of God's Kingdom and therefore candidates for extinction. They did not think Indigenous peoples deserved religious freedoms.

3. The claim that early settler found corn is a myth. The truth is much more sinister. Not only did the colonists steal corn stores from Wampanoag peoples storage areas and houses but they even raided Indigenous graves for corn and jewelry, leaving the bones of their dead scattered in their looting.

4. The claim that Squanto chose willingly to become a special friend and guide to the colonists is a myth. He was one of the only surviving members of the Wampanoag village of Pawtuxet that had been wiped out by earlier English incursions in the area. He had been held captive for years and taught English.

5. The claim that the colonists invited the Indians to the feast and fed them and that they became great friends is a myth. In truth, the feast was "crashed" by the Wapanoag who heard gunshot and were suspicious of the the colonists, came to check it out and then saw the meager feast of the English and decided to contribute to it. The Wapanoag would have brought the lion share of the food as they were much better equipped to feed themselves than the colonists. Rather than leading to peace, these early meetings led to massacres on the part of the English. In 1637, the Pequot suffered the loss of  700 of their members in a massacre against unarmed men, women, and children, when colonists attacked them in their sleep and burned them alive.

For many First Nations peoples, "Thanksgiving is a time of mourning, a reminder of genocide and the theft of Indian lands.

When will America tell the true story of her origins? When will she admit wrongdoing, make amends, learn from her mistakes, and institute reparations for all she has done in the name of racism and greed?

We are waiting....



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