Thanksgiving: The day of a forgotten genocide

Every year we celebrate Thanksgiving in America. We make turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, crescents, cranberry sauce, and every other food item that the kids refuse to eat. We see articles and Facebook posts about how we should be thankful on this day for our loved ones as well as everything that we have been blessed with. We explain to the children that the pilgrims and indians came together to share a meal of peace and thanks since the indians helped the pilgrims survive their first winter and so that is why we continue the tradition every year.

But that’s all a lie.

To fully understand, let’s go back to when the pilgrims first arrived in Massachusetts. They actually arrived a few years earlier than the Plymouth Rock story. British slave ships arrived with cows and smallpox and spread that disease to the Native Americans which ended up killing a large amount of the local Native American population. The first thanksgiving was in 1621 but that was just a feast for the Puritans that celebrated a harvest that the already declining Native Americans grew and the Puritans then stole.The Puritans become allies with the Wampanoag tribe only because they and the tribe were both being attacked by stronger tribes in the area. Squanto, the handy dandy Native American that we hear so much about, wasn’t exactly helping the Puritans out of kindness. He was a slave that was taken to Europe, learned english, and then tried to escape.

Fast forward to the second thanksgiving in 1637 when, according to Joanne Barker from Truth-out states, “John Winthrop, governor of an English colony in what is now Massachusetts, held a feast in honor of a volunteer militia who had returned from their massacre of 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Nation.” Nowhere in the school history books are we taught about the pilgrims killing, raping, and torturing the Native Americans from the moment they stepped onto the land that they stole.Nowhere in school do we learn about the genocide that is now covered up with a national holiday. Robert Jensen, a professor at UT Austin wrote in 2005 about Winthrop’s massacre, “The pattern would repeat itself across the continent until between 95 and 99 percent of American Indians had been exterminated and the rest were left to assimilate into white society or die off on reservations, out of the view of polite society.” They were arriving from England and killing all the Native Americans so that they could claim the land as their own. Land that the Native Americans believe belong to nobody.

Thanksgiving didn’t even become a “thing” until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln wanted to express “gratitude for a pivotal Union Army victory at Gettysburg” and proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November a national holiday. A holiday came about due to want of a country being more patriotic.

Today, it seems as though nobody really cares about why every relative you hate is sitting at the same exact table you are eating foods that weren’t available in 1621. However, many Native Americans and non Native Americans celebrate the day of mourning rather than thanksgiving. The current chairman and president of the Wampanoag tribe recently said “Some would say, ‘Why be so dark about it?’ Well, it’s real, it’s truthful, it was a holocaust, and that holocaust must be shared and communicated so that we ensure that mankind doesn’t do that to each other again.” Sam Levine with Huffington Post wrote, “On Thanksgiving, between 700 and 1,200 people will gather in Plymouth, Massachusetts, for a “National Day of Mourning” to educate people about the vicious history of the treatment of Native Americans and the issues affecting them today.” People do see the importance of having the truth come out. People see the significance of recognizing and educating others about what really happened so many years ago.

This year, Cut asked Native Americans to do word association on camera. One of the videos they said “Thanksgiving” and the responses ranged from “lies” to “family” to “massacre”. Another video, Cut asked about “Christopher Columbus” and i’ll just let you watch the emotional and painful video for that one.

Even MTV got in on the thanksgiving truth serum by making a video for their show Decoded. The quick video can help spread the truth to generations that have a short attention span and can hopefully intrigue people enough to get more education about the tragic day.

On a lighter tone, Buzzfeed also made a video with Native Americans reading children thanksgiving storybooks. The reactions are light hearted with many making jokes, but their testaments are real. Another video by Buzzfeed has the same Native Americans trying on halloween costumes that are supposed to resemble the indians. I know halloween isn’t related to thanksgiving but the fact that we can make costumes out of an entire group of people is disturbing.

We act like the Native Americans have gone extinct, and while many Puritans and pilgrims definitely tried to make that happen, they are still alive. Many live in harsh conditions on reservations.

Its amazing that only during this time of year do we remember Native Americans and what we put them through. We need to acknowledge what happened in history and try and fix the wrong doing. We didn’t give hitler a day for his genocide, so why is there a day for the genocide of the Native Americans?


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