I've been struggling a little bit lately with the thought of Thanksgiving. I love the idea of a holiday where family gathers and gives thanks for all that they have. What I don't love is the rest of the propaganda surrounding Thanksgiving.
I grew up in Massachusetts, where all this peace, love, and thanksgiving supposedly happened. In school, we were taught this great story about how the pilgrims and the indians gathered together and had a wonderful meal together. As a kid, I ate this up. What a lovely story. People of different backgrounds joining together in harmony?! What could possibly be wrong with that? Nothing, except that the story is complete bullshit.
Now I don't claim to be a historian, and I don't really want this blog to get all political. I've genuinely been struggling whether I wanted to touch on this at all. But after reading Simon Moya-Smith's blog post today about homeless natives in Denver, I knew I had to post something.
So let's think about this. How many truly Native people do you know? Probably none right? Like I said, I grew up in New England, in Massachusetts, a state named after the Massachusett tribe. I do not know a single Native person. Oh I know plenty of white people who claim some sort of "indian" ancestors (my own family members included), but I don't know any true Native people. So obviously that great coming together of different groups didn't really work out for them.
While the facts of where Thanksgiving truly came from are hard to find nowadays, the general thought is that Thanksgiving was officially declared by Governor William Bradford after the Pequot massacre 0f approximately 600 indians living near the Mystic River in 1637. He wrote "A day of Thanksgiving, thanking God that they had eliminated over 700 men, women and children." It was signed into law that, "This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots.". For more of this story, please read this article. This is not mentioned in the history books because the victor always writes the history.
In 1970, Plymouth celebrated the 350th anniversary of the "founding" of Plimouth Plantation. They invited Frank James, a Wampanoag indian to give a speech during the festivities. Before the speech was to take place, the people holding the celebration asked to read a copy of his speech. After reading it, he was told he was not allowed to give that speech and that one of their people would write one for him. He refused. His speech is available here. Please read it.
I'm not saying that I don't want you all to celebrate your Thanksgiving your way. I would just like to hope that tomorrow, you'll take just a second to reflect on the truth of what really happened and what is still happening to the real founding fathers. I ask you to please read this article by Simon Moya-Smith I Am Not A Mascot: Homeless Jimmy, Burger King and Lakota Corner to get just a little perspective on where many Natives find themselves today.
As for me, I will be raising my son to celebrate thanksgiving-the act of being thankful for the things that we have that others may not. When he's older and in school, he will not be participating in any sort of Thanksgiving plays that depict the accepted (and untrue) version of Thanksgiving. I will be teach him the true facts behind Thanksgiving, and I will teach him not to take everything he learns as fact. I will raise a son who takes what he's taught and then finds the truth for himself.
I apologize that this blog post is very different from my usual happy-g0-lucky posts, but I find that I have a hard time being happy-go-lucky in regards to Thanksgiving.
For more information regarding the myth of Thanksgiving, please check out these sites: