I am sending a gift, a box of “Indian corn,” to the Wall Street Journal editorial board as a reminder of what really happened in colonial North America and is commemorated by the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. On this 400th anniversary of what we believe to be the first Thanksgiving, the Wall Street Journal is poised to print its insulting Pilgrim Journal version of early colonial history for the 60th time. Not only is the account suffused with the racist sentiment, but it is also factually incorrect to a grotesque degree. The newspaper is impugning its own credibility and not just its core values. In 2020, I wrote to the Wall Street Journal imploring them to retire the editorial and was ignored. This year I organized a Change.org petition to remove the offending commentary.
The White House on Friday revealed the names of the recipients of two pardons President Biden plans to issue—Peanut Butter and Jelly. The pardons are, of course, for two Thanksgiving turkeys, part of a stupid annual tradition where the president saves two turkeys from the Thanksgiving table. The tradition began in 1863, when Abraham Lincoln pardoned a turkey, an act that apparently wasn’t even reported in the media until 1865. By the early 20th century, it was common practice to give friends and family members live poultry as an early Christmas gift and to have them “pardon” the turkey or chicken as part of a “poultryless Thursday,” according to the White House Historical Society. How quaint.
On Thursday, millions of families across the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving without giving much thought to the truth behind the heavily mythologized and sanitized story taught in schools and promulgated by institutions. According to this myth, 400 years ago, the Pilgrims were warmly welcomed by the “Indians,” and the two groups came together in friendship to break bread. The “Indians” taught the Pilgrims how to live in the “New World,” setting the stage for the eventual establishment of a great land of liberty and opportunity.
In 1621, though Pilgrims celebrated a feast, it was not repeated in the years to follow. In 1636, a murdered white man was found in his boat and the Pequot were blamed. In retaliation, settlers burned Pequot villages. Additionally, English Major John Mason rallied his troops to further burn Pequot wigwams and then attacked and killed hundreds more men, women and children. According to Mason’s reports of the massacre, “We must burn them! Such a dreadful terror let the Almighty fall upon their spirits that they would flee from us and run into the very flames. Thus did the Lord judge the heathen, filling the place with dead bodies.” The Governor of Plymouth William Bradford wrote: “Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword; some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so that they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped.
According to UAINE youth coordinator Kisha James, who is Aquinnah Wampanoag and Oglala Lakota and the granddaughter of Wamsutta Frank James, the founder of National Day of Mourning, “We Native people have no reason to celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims. We want to educate people so that they understand the stories we all learned in school about the first Thanksgiving are nothing but lies. Wampanoag and other Indigenous people have certainly not lived happily ever after since the arrival of the Pilgrims. To us, Thanksgiving is a Day of Mourning, because we remember the millions of our ancestors who were murdered by uninvited European colonists such as the Pilgrims. Today, we and many Indigenous people around the country say, ‘No Thanks, No Giving.’"
An informal group of Northwest Indigenous warriors, headed by veteran Native rights protector Sid Mills, announced last week they plan to join a march in Southern California to demand the release of Indigenous children from immigration detention facilities. The four-day event, called The March for Freedom, will begin in Los Angeles on the National Day of Mourning, known to non-Native people as Thanksgiving, and will end on Sunday, November 28, at the Otay Mesa Detention Facility in San Diego.
Native Americans don’t just live on reservations, we live in cities, and we live internationally. I grew up in the Silicon Valley of California. I was born in the city and have lived here my whole life, as an “Urban Native.” My grandfather moved to California from Mohawk territory in the 1950s after he served in Korea, and we have all lived in Sunnyvale ever since. The challenges I grew up around were different from my Oyaté (family) out on the reservations. It is easier to lose our sense of culture living among so many established settler communities.
The coronavirus pandemic is breaking records every day in the United States, filling up intensive care units, overwhelming hospital systems and exhausting health care workers. A record 203,000 Americans tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, and the seven-day average is above 170,000. Despite significant advances in treating the disease, more than 1,500 people are dying every day, the highest level since May. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that the US will record 300,000 deaths by the middle of December, and there could be as many as 21,000 new coronavirus hospitalizations each day.
Native Americans and allies recently commemorated the 50th Annual National Day of Mourning at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. Next year will be the 400th anniversary of the pilgrims landing as part of the European colonization of North America, which led to land theft and massacres of the Indigenous Peoples living there. We speak with Jean-Luc Pierite of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe who currently resides in Boston about the National Day of Mourning and some of the ways European colonization and the genocide that resulted from it are ongoing. Pierite describes efforts he is involved in such as community programs, reenactments, and legislation and the solidarity that is building worldwide. He emphasizes the necessity of oppressed peoples' voices being at the center of the struggle to decolonize the United States and bring about reparations.
An annual tradition since 1970, Day of Mourning is a solemn, spiritual and highly political day. Many of us fast from sundown the day before through the afternoon of that day (and have a social after Day of Mourning so that participants in DOM can break their fasts). We are mourning our ancestors and the genocide of our peoples and the theft of our lands. It is a day when we mourn, but we also feel our strength in political action. Over the years, participants in Day of Mourning have buried Plymouth Rock a number of times, boarded the Mayflower replica, and placed ku klux klan sheets on the statue of William Bradford, etc. Although we very much welcome our non-Native supporters to stand with us, it is a day when only Indigenous people speak about our history and the struggles that are taking place throughout the Americas.
America has parallel histories, which it displays by wearing two faces. The first face is that of a near-perfect country filled with honest, hardworking American patriots, a country where all men are created equal. A country where there is peace, justice, and liberty for all; land of the free, home of the brave. The second face is that of a country that hides is warts by not publishing its true history in the books it uses in its schools. The horrid brutality of the settlers to the Indians as they moved further and further west taking land and lives in their wake. The inhumane acts against black people as they were brutalized as slaves to make the white plantation owners rich. Hundreds of African Americans who were lynched from trees for the slightest disagreement with the white men and Indian families that were murdered in cold blood for the grievous crime of standing in the way of Manifest Destiny.
Millions of people over the US will be gathering on Thanksgiving to share a meal together and to give thanks for the people and the blessings in their lives. As you gather, it’s important to think about the meaning of this celebration and to challenge the received myths about this problematic holiday. While some form of harvest celebration is found in most cultures, the historical circumstances of Thanksgiving in the US are deeply intertwined with the oppression and genocide of the indigenous peoples by the settlers. The anthropologist Levi-Strauss suggests that myth is an attempt to create an imaginary resolution of a real, intolerable contraction. What this means in this context is that the foundational myth of the United States around Thanksgiving (with its notions of sharing, generosity, mutual aid, cooperation with indigenous peoples) attempts to paper over the origins of a violent colonial settler state based on its very opposite (greed, plunder, dispossession, atrocity, war, and genocide of the indigenous peoples).
Nobody but Americans celebrates Thanksgiving. It is reserved by history and the intent of “the founders” as the supremely white American holiday, the most ghoulish event on the national calendar. No Halloween of the imagination can rival the exterminationist reality that was the genesis, and remains the legacy, of the American Thanksgiving. It is the most loathsome, humanity-insulting day of the year – a pure glorification of racist barbarity. We at BC are thankful that the day grows nearer when the almost four centuries-old abomination will be deprived of its reason for being: white supremacy. Then we may all eat and drink in peace and gratitude for the blessings of humanity’s deliverance from the rule of evil men.
America, the world's supposed greatest democracy, is now afraid to discuss politics and the folks that guide the thinking of the nation (corporate-run media) have decided that in this land of the free (and home of the brave) that we should keep our traps shut and just discuss the mundane subjects like sports, shopping, crap TV shows and the like. If someone wants to talk about politics at dinner please join in the discussion. You don't have to be rude or mean spirited - but you can listen, learn and share your heartfelt feelings about a particular issue that concerns you. Someone, including each of us, might just learn something new.