How are you planning to celebrate the National Day of Mourning? Food? Feast? Football? Family? Pre-Black Friday shopping? Will you spend time with your children cutting out hand traced turkeys and making Pilgrim hats? Baking? Skyping distant relatives? Visiting with relatives?
Since the winners write the history books, children are taught in school that the National Day of Mourning was a day when “Indians,” also known as Native Americans or, members of the Wampanoag tribe to be exact, sat down with “pilgrims” who were thankful for “discovering” the new land, making friends with the Wampanoag tribe, escaping religious persecution and sharing a meal of peace, love and joy. Amen.
Some stories are just that, stories. About the only thing true with that nice story is that the Wampanoag’s were helpful to the European strangers who landed on their shore. The truth is that the white settlers in Jamestown had to resort to cannibalism to survive and it was the Wampanoag tribe who helped them get through the bitter winter, mostly to prevent the white settlers from digging up Wampanoag graves.
Columbus didn’t discover North America, or Plymouth. He got lost and stumbled upon the island of Haiti where there was already an indigenous people there. Christopher wrote in his log that he was thankful for the bounty of human cargo God gave him and then enslaved, raped and murdered most of the tribe. They were the Arawak. Furthermore, it was the Vikings, not Columbus, who first made contact with Native Americans in the area known today as Boston. Leif Erikson was the first European and the first Christian to plant his feet on American soil 500 years earlier than Chris and, as such, he deserves more a place in the history of our country than Columbus does.
Back to the Pilgrim mythology, they did not come here to escape religious persecution (much like what they inflicted on the American Indians who already had their own religion) but they came here as part of a commercial venture. It is also true that the pitiful settlers would not have survived here had it not been for the aid of the Wampanoag tribe. What did the Wampanoag get in return? Mass murder, forced relocation, theft of land, alcoholism, disease, starvation, genocide, jail and repression. All that, for which we are apparently thankful, spread across the continent as the Europeans pushed westward and did much the same to all other tribes.
The government gave settlers free land on the outskirts of their new cities and settlements. Many poor farmers, their families and prospectors took advantage of the free land and began spreading west. The Native Americans would protest and push back. The settlers complained to the military who would then come out and confront the Native Americans. This did not end well for the “Indians.” We would kill one of them and they would come back and kill one of our settlers. We would go back and kill five of them. They would come back and kill five of us in return. We would go back and kill twenty five of them, and on it went. As settlers encroached into Native American lands, the Native Americans attacked. Atrocities took place on both sides. When certain Native American villages refused to surrender the “savages” accused of murdering whites, Andrew Jackson ordered entire villages destroyed. The free land given to families also created a buffer zone. If the Native Americans attacked, they would attack the outskirts first, protecting the cities and towns and wealthier class. After all, as it is today, the poor are expendable and very useful for political gain. Hitler used the Jews, the Puritans used “witches.” Harry Anslinger used blacks and jazz musicians, and politicians today continue disenfranchising the underclass for their own political gain.
The first official “Day of Thanksgiving” was proclaimed in 1637 by Governor Winthrop. He did so to celebrate the safe return of men from Massachusetts who had gone to Mystic, Connecticut to participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot women, children, and men.
Thanksgiving is by far the greatest monument to racism. There are many people who would say that these events happened over 300 years ago and it is not their fault. This is true. We can at least demand that our schools teach the truth and that we acknowledge the terrorism and genocide our ancestors committed – for religious freedom. We don’t need to give up our Thanksgiving customs, traditions, Black Friday sales and parades, but let us at least know that for the Native American culture that this day is for them, the National Day of Mourning and that they have little to be thankful for.
For Further reading – HISTORY IS A WEAPON
“The greatest single acts of terrorism to date were not perpetrated by Osama bin Laden, but by the US military when it dropped atomic bombs on the civilian people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
From a speech by Moonanum James on the 32nd National Day of Mourning, 2001.
Ever hear about Evacuation Day?