This is a great editorial about the sad truth of what we call “Thanksgiving”.
an editorial by Publisher/Editor – Terri J Andrews
Never before in the history of America has a subset of this country’s population been so misrepresented, lied about, and viciously condemned and criticized than the Native American Indians. Our own history books present a censored and false past that glorifies the “proud, pure and righteous” settlers, while stereotyping the original inhabitants as wild savages in war bonnets, running through the forest looking for food and scalping innocent children and women.
Take a look through a child’s history book and you will often note an image of the pilgrims, colonists and pioneers that include log cabins, the pursuit of religious freedom and a strong sense of community. Now look for references to the Native peoples – words such as “primitive”, “massacre”, “Earth Gods” and “religious rituals” fill those same pages. Often times, paintings of the Native Indians hiding behind trees with tomahawks, watching the unsuspecting Europeans, are wrongly depicted to children.
This is a common thread woven through the fabric of American history – a lie that ties together a past built on stolen tradition and absent information retold in books authored by non-Native Americans.
The Thanksgiving holiday is a perfect example of censorship and the rewriting of truth. A portrait painted of the friendly Indians and the openhearted pilgrims coming together to feast after a long, sorry winter is accepted and tolerated by the American community. But this portrait is not correct. The story is much deeper than that; so much deeper that the Native American Indian community calls this day – The National Day of Mourning – and stages rallies to protest the holiday. Their reasons are valid. The true story of Thanksgiving is not something a country should be proud of.
Pilgrims and the Pure Truth
The Pilgrims of New England, who came to this country in 1620, were not simple refugees from England fighting against oppression and religious discrimination. They were political revolutionaries and part of the Puritan movement, which was considered objectionable and unorthodox by the King of the Church of England. They were outcasts in their own country, plotting to take over the government, causing some of the settlers to become fugitives in their own country.
These Puritan Pilgrims saw themselves as the “chosen elect”, from the Bibles’ Book of Revelations and traveled to America to build “The Kingdom of God”, also from Revelations. Strict with the scripture, they considered an enemy of anyone who did not follow suit. These beliefs were eventually transmitted to the other colonists, and the Puritan belief system quickly spread across the New England area.
Plymouth Rock of 1620 – Myth or Fact?
This is from an account of the Pilgrims landing -from the book The American Tradition. Is it myth or factual?
” After some exploring, the Pilgrims chose the land around Plymouth Harbor for their settlement. Unfortunately, they arrived in December and were not prepared for the New England weather. However, they were aided by friendly Indians, who gave them food and showed them how to grow corn. When warm weather came, the colonists planted, fished, hunted and prepared themselves for the next winter. After harvesting their first crop, they and their Indian friends celebrated the first Thanksgiving.”
Answer – BOTH! The American Tradition account is a mix of myth and fact. Here’s why:
1. Yes, the “Pilgrims” did come to America in 1620.
2. Yes they were inapt to care for themselves due to the harshness of the winter and their lack of stored food and supplies.
3. Yes, they did have a “feast”.
1. They were NOT met by “friendly” Indians who waved them in from the banks or welcomed their arrival. The Native people did not trust the whites, having encountered such foreigners before and suffering severe consequences. The Natives took pity on the settlers and only a (very) few Native Americans were actually “friendly” to the newcomers.
2. The Native community did not help the colonists because of a deep friendship, rather it was a custom of their culture and religion to help those who were in need.
3. The two groups did NOT come together to celebrate the harvest, as friends, and rejoice in the “first” Thanksgiving. They were meeting to discuss land rights.
4. Lastly, it was NOT the first Thanksgiving. An Autumnal harvest and banquet were a tradition of the Native people – a celebration that was a part of their culture for centuries.
The REAL story of the “first” Thanksgiving
In December of 1620 a splinter group of England’s Puritan movement set anchor on American soil, a land already inhabited by the Wampanoag Indians. Having been unprepared for the bitter cold weather, and arriving too late to grow an adequate food supply, nearly half of the 100 settlers did not survive the winter.
On March 16th, 1621, a Native Indian named Samoset met the Englishmen for the first time. Samoset spoke excellent English, as did Squanto, another bilingual Patuxet who would serve as interpreter between the colonist and the Wampanoag Indians, who, lead by Chief Massasoit, were dressed as fierce warriors and outnumbered the settlers.
The Wampanoag already had a long history with the white man. For 100 years prior to the Pilgrim landing, they had encounters with European fishermen, as well as those who worked for slave traders. They had witnessed their communities being raided and their people stolen to be sold into slavery. They did not trust the newcomers.
But Squanto was an exception. He had lived with the British, after being captured by an earlier sailing vessel. He had a deep fondness for the Europeans – particularly that for a British Explorer named John Weymouth, who treated Squanto like a son.
Chief Massasoit and Samoset arrived at the colony with over 60 men, plus Squanto, who acted as a mediator between the two parties. Squanto was successful at making a peaceful agreement, though it is most likely that there was a great deal of friction between the Native community and the colonists. The Englishmen felt that the Native peoples were instruments of the devil because of their spiritual beliefs and trusted only the Christian-baptized Squanto. The Native people were already non-trusting of the white man, except for Squanto, who looked at the Europeans as being of “Johns People.”
It was Squanto who then moved to the English colony and taught them to hunt, trap, fish and to cultivate their own crops. He educated them on natural medicine and living off the land. A beloved friend of the Pilgrims, for if it wasn’t for him, they would not if survived. The Puritian Pilgrims thought of him as an Instrument of God.
Several months later the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims decided to meet again to negotiate a land treaty needed by the settlers. They hoped to secure land to build the Plymouth Plantation for the Pilgrims. The Native people agreed to meet for a 3-day negotiation “conference”. As part of the Wampanoag custom – or perhaps out of a sense of charity towards the host – the Native community agreed to bring most of the food for the event.
The peace and land negotiations were successful and the Pilgrims acquired the rights of land for their people.
In 1622 propaganda started to circulate about this “First Thanksgiving”. Mourts Relation, a book written to publicize the so-called “wonderfulness” of Plymouth, told of the meeting as a friendly feast with the Natives. The situation was glamorized by the Pilgrims, possibly in an effort to encourage more Puritans to settle in their area. By stating that the Native community was warm and open-armed, the newcomers would be more likely to feel secure in their journey to New England.
The sad, sad truth (what happened next)
What started as a hope for peace between the settlers and the Wampanoag, ended in the most sad and tragic way. The Pilgrims, once few in number, had now grown to well over 40,000 and the Native American strength had weakened to less than 3,000. By 1675, one generation later, tension had grown between the Europeans and the Native Indians. The Wampanoag called in reinforcements from other surrounding tribes.
Metacomet, heir and son of Chief Massasoit, became Chief of the Wampanoag Nation. The English, who referred to Metacomet as King Phillip, started a war between the two parties when they unjustly tried and convicted three innocent Wampanoags of murdering an Englishman, John Sassamon, even though it was well know and accepted that Sassamon’s death was truthfully caused by an accidental fall in a frozen pond.
Metacomet, furious and in despair, sought revenge for the deaths of his tribesmen by declaring war. The settlers killed another Native man, hence settling off the beginning of what is now known as “King Phillips War.” Many Native communities throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut rallied with the Wampanoags, but the power of the English was overpowering. Metacomet moved many of his people to New York. Sadly, his wife and 9-year-old son were captured and sold into slavery. Brokenhearted, he returned to his homeland – and soon killed. His death ends the Kings Phillips War and the remaining Wampanoags, and their allies, were either killed or deported as slaves for thirty shillings each. This slave trade was so successful that several Puritan ship owners began a slave-trading business by raiding the coast for Native American Indians and trading them for black slaves of Africa. The black slaves were then sold to colonists in the south. Hence, the Pilgrims were one of the founders of the American-based slave trading industry.
For many Native American Indians of present day, the traditional “Thanksgiving” holiday is not recognized as the Pilgrim/Indian day popularized in children’s history books; rather it is a day of sorrow and shame. Sorrow for the fallen lives of those who were lost so long ago, and shame for living in a country who honors people who used religion and self-righteousness to condone murder, treachery and slavery.
For the many in the Native community, “Thanksgiving” is a day to reflect on what has happened (past and present); to pray to the Creator that more people will know of the truth and show respect towards the fallen culture; to fast the body; to protest the commercialization of Thanksgiving; to share their time with the less fortunate in soup kitchens or shelters; and some take part in a family meal, honoring the spirit of Chief Massasoit and his initial charity and intentions of the Wampanoag Indians — who first came to initiate a peace agreement between them and the newcomers.
Celebrating the spirit of the holiday – without the propaganda that is attached, is a respectful way to share the day with the Native American people. Understanding the true historical significance of their contributions to the day, as well as what the consequences of their efforts led to be, is even more important. Without the assistance of Squanto, and the agreement for peace made between the two cultures, I find it unlikely that the settlers would have lived so well or even lived at all.
The Native people died so that the colony could flourish. They need to be remembered, respected and mourned. With them – the Native forefathers – is a much better place to lay your fondness and your thanks.
It is with their spirit of generosity and charity that you should place your foundation for a true and honest “Thanksgiving.”