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.

 

 

More articles by:

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

November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohamed bin Salman
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail