Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanks to a colleague for this reminder about what we're really doing this week...

Link here.

First official document proclaiming "THANKSGIVING" as we know it today came after the event below:

The year was 1637.....700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe, gathered for their "Annual Green Corn Dance" in the area that is now known as Groton, Conn. While they were gathered in this place of meeting, they were surrounded and attacked by mercenaries of the English and Dutch. The Indians were ordered from the building and as they came forth, they were shot down. The rest were burned alive in the building. The next day, the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared : "A day of Thanksgiving, thanking God that they had eliminated over 700 men, women and children. For the next 100 years, every "Thanksgiving Day" ordained by a Governor or President was to honor that victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.

Source: Documents of Holland , 13 Volume Colonial Documentary History, letters and reports form colonial officials to their superiors and the King in England and the private papers of Sir William Johnson, British Indian agent for the New York colony for 30 years. Researched by William B. Newell (Penobscot Tribe) Former Chairman of the University of Connecticut Anthropology Department

Mistakes, Lies & Misconceptions about American Indian people The Thanksgiving Myth

Let me begin by stating that thousands of years before the 'official' Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed by Governor Winthrop of the Massachussetts Bay Colony in 1637, North American Indigenous people across the continent had celebrated seasons of Thanksgiving. 'Thanksgiving' is a very ancient concept to American Indian nations. The big problem with the American Thanksgiving holiday is its false association with American Indian people. The infamous 'Indians and pilgrims' myth. It is good to celebrate Thanksgiving, to be thankful for your blessings. It is not good to distort history, to falsely portray the origin of this holiday and lie about the truth of its actual inception. Here are some accurate historical facts about the true origin of this American holiday that may interest you:

'Thanksgiving' did not begin as a great loving relationship between the pilgrims and the Wampanoag, Pequot and Narragansett people. In fact, in October of 1621 when the 'pilgrim' survivors of their first winter in Turtle Island sat down to share the first unofficial 'Thanksgiving' meal, the Indians who were there were not even invited! There was no turkey, squash, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie. A few days before this alleged feast took place, a company of 'pilgrims' led by Miles Standish actively sought the head of a local Indian leader, and an 11 foot high wall was erected around the entire Plymouth settlement for the very purpose of keeping Indians out! Officially, the holiday we know as 'Thanksgiving' actually came into existence in the year 1637. Governor Winthrop of the Massachussetts Bay Colony proclaimed this first official day of Thanksgiving and feasting to celebrate the return of the colony's men who had arrived safely from what is now Mystic, Connecticut. They had gone there to participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot men, women and children, and Mr. Winthrop decided to dedicate an official day of thanksgiving complete with a feast to 'give thanks' for their great 'victory'....

As hard as it may be to conceive, this is the actual origin of our current Thanksgiving Day holiday. Many American Indian people these days do not observe this holiday, for obvious reasons. I see nothing wrong with gathering with family to give thanks to our Creator for our blessings and sharing a meal. I do, however, hope that Americans as a whole will one day acknowledge the true origin of this holiday, and remember the pain, loss, and agony of the Indigenous people who suffered at the hands of the so-called 'pilgrims'. It is my hope that children's plays about 'the first Thanksgiving', complete with Indians and pilgrims chumming at the dinner table, will someday be a thing of the past. Why perpetuate a lie? Let us face the truths of the past, and give thanks that we are learning to love one another for the rich human diversity we share.

Written by John Two-Hawks


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I linked to it in my blog this evening. I really loathe Thanksgiving.

A rye-drinker said...

A good post, with sentiments I agree with. But it's not quite right.

The national holiday that we now know as Thanksgiving began in 1863, when Abraham Lincoln declared that the last Thursday of November would be a national day of Thanksgiving. This was in the middle of the Civil War.

The New England origins of Thanksgiving--the Pilgrim story many of us learned in school as children--are deeply disputed, and not just by indigenous peoples. The Berkeley Plantation, in Virginia, claims to have celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1619. Some historians argue the first Thanksgiving took place among Spanish soldiers in St. Augustine, FL, in 1565. There are even Texans who claim various Thanksgivings were celebrated there in the late 1590s.

In fact, the New England Thanksgiving that we know (and that Native peoples have appropriately critiqued as a holiday that celebrates colonialism and empire--an obvious feature that all these origin stories, regardless of geographic location or moment share) is, like all holidays, completely invented.

Sarah Hale, a white New Englander and editor of GODEY'S LADY'S BOOK (a 19th century equivalent of LADIES HOME JOURNAL) pushed for decades to turn Thanksgiving into a national holiday. In the process, she also laid the foundation for it's mythic Pilgrim associations.

By the way, Hale was a great advocate for women's education, and is considered by many to be among America's first generation of feminists.

This means that some antebellum feminists, too, were complicit with the establishment of this holiday and its accompanying myths.

A great piece with the same basic argument as the one you've posted-- but more accurate--can be found in today's LA TIMES:,0,7184837.story

Meantime, thanks for all the great blogging!

Plain(s)feminist said...

Thanks, Rye Drinker, for the corrections and the link! (Leave it to a historian...)

Hope you're having a good holiday (and drinking lots of rye).

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