FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Myth of Thanksgiving

by

Thanksgiving is the favorite holiday of many US Americans; unlike the rather boring or divisive holidays that honor Columbus, Presidents, Martin Luther King, Jr., Independence, veterans and war, the birth of a religion, and a new year, Thanksgiving is centered on sharing food with family and friends. Individuals and families travel long distances at great expense to be with one another. It might be surprising to learn that the cherished tradition of Thanksgiving is, in fact, the most nationalist of all holidays because it narrates the national origin myth. The traditional meal, as we know, consists of the foods cultivated by Indigenous farmers—corn, squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and turkey.

The US origin story of a covenant with God goes back to the Mayflower Compact, the first governing document of the Plymouth roxanneindigColony. It is named for the ship that carried the hundred or so passengers, half of them religious dissidents, to what is now Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in November 1620. This compact marked the beginning of settler democracy, which from its inception sought the elimination of the Indigenous. Behind the black clothed and solemn “Pilgrims,” was a corporation of shareholders, the Virginia Company, accompanied by armed and seasoned mercenaries on a colonizing project ordered by the English King James. If any local Natives were present at a colonizers’ celebratory meal, they were surely there as servants, and the foods were confiscated, not offered as a gift.

“Thanksgiving” became a named holiday during the Civil War, but neither Pilgrims, nor Indians, nor food, nor the Mayflower—all essential to today’s celebration—were mentioned in Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation.

It was during the Great Depression that the Thanksgiving holiday was transformed into a nationalistic origin story to bind a chaotic society experiencing economic and social collapse. But this idea of the gift-giving Indian, helping to establish and enrich what would become the United States, is an insidious smoke screen meant to obscure the fact that the very existence of the country is a result of the looting of an entire continent and its resources.

In 1970, on the 350th anniversary of the English settlers—“Pilgrims”—occupying land of the Wampanoag Nation, the United American Indians of New England led a protest of the Thanksgiving holiday, which they called a “National Day of Mourning.” Every year since that time, the National Day of Mourning has taken place at Plymouth Rock. They rightly accuse the United

States government of having invented a myth to cover the reality of colonialism and attempted genocide. By Thanksgiving 1970, Native Americans from many Indigenous nations had been occupying Alcatraz Island for a year. It was the height of renewed Native resistance to US colonial institutions and calls for sovereignty and self-determination, which have continued and seen many victories as well as new obstacles. In 2007, after three decades of Indigenous Peoples’ lobbying, the United Nations General Assembly passed the “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Thanksgiving needs another transformation, a day to mourn US colonization and attempted genocide and celebrate the survival of Native Nations through their resistance.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz has been active in the international Indigenous movement for more than four decades, and is author or editor of seven books including the recently published An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.

 

 

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is the author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail