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Nobody celebrates Thanksgiving quite like
Americans celebrate 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
Thanksgiving is much more than a lie – if it were that simple,
an historical correction of the record of events in 1600s Massachusetts
would suffice to purge the “flaw” in the national mythology.
But Thanksgiving is not just a twisted fable, and the mythology
it nurtures is itself inherently evil. The real-life events – subsequently
revised – were perfectly understood at the time as the first,
definitive triumphs of the genocidal European project in New
England. The near-erasure of Native Americans in Massachusetts
and, soon thereafter, from most of the remainder of the northern
English colonial seaboard was the true mission of the Pilgrim
enterprise – Act One of the American Dream. African Slavery
commenced contemporaneously – an overlapping and ultimately
inseparable Act Two.
The last Act in the American drama must
be the “root and branch” eradication
of all vestiges of Act One and Two – America’s seminal crimes
and formative projects. Thanksgiving as presently celebrated – that
is, as a national political event – is an affront to
Celebrating the unspeakable
White America embraced Thanksgiving because
a majority of that population glories in the fruits, if not
details, of genocide and slavery and feels, on the whole, good
about their heritage: a cornucopia of privilege and national
power. Children are taught to identify with the good fortune
of the Pilgrims. It does not much matter that the Native American
and African holocausts that flowed from the feast at Plymouth
are hidden from the children’s version of the story – kids
learn soon enough that Indians were made scarce and Africans
became enslaved. But they will also never forget the core message
of the holiday: that the Pilgrims were good people, who could
not have purposely set such evil in motion. Just as the first
Thanksgivings marked the consolidation of the English toehold
in what became the United States, the core ideological content
of the holiday serves to validate all that has since occurred
on these shores – a national consecration of the unspeakable,
a balm and benediction for the victors, a blessing of the fruits
of murder and kidnapping, and an implicit obligation to continue
the seamless historical project in the present day.
The Thanksgiving story is an absolution of the Pilgrims, whose
brutal quest for absolute power in the New World is made to
seem both religiously motivated and eminently human. Most importantly,
the Pilgrims are depicted as victims – of harsh weather
and their own naïve yet wholesome visions of a new beginning.
In light of this carefully nurtured fable, whatever happened
to the Indians, from Plymouth to California and beyond, in
the aftermath of the 1621 dinner must be considered a mistake,
the result of misunderstandings – at worst, a series of lamentable
tragedies. The story provides the essential first frame of
the American saga. It is unalloyed racist propaganda, a tale
that endures because it served the purposes of a succession
of the Pilgrims’ political heirs, in much the same way that
Nazi-enhanced mythology of a glorious Aryan/German past advanced
another murderous, expansionist mission.
Thanksgiving is quite dangerous – as were
Rejoicing in a cemetery
The English settlers, their ostensibly religious venture backed
by a trading company, were glad to discover that they had landed
in a virtual cemetery in 1620. Corn still sprouted in the abandoned
fields of the Wampanoags,
but only a remnant of the local population remained around
the fabled Rock. In a letter to England, Massachusetts Bay
colony founder John Winthrop wrote, "But for the natives
in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles
space the greatest part of them are swept away by smallpox
which still continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared
our title to this place, those who remain in these parts, being
in all not 50, have put themselves under our protection."
Ever diligent to claim their own advantages
as God’s will,
the Pilgrims thanked their deity for having “pursued” the Indians
to mass death. However, it was not divine intervention that
wiped out most of the natives around the village of Patuxet
but, most likely, smallpox-embedded blankets planted during
an English visit or slave raid. Six years before the Pilgrim
landing, a ship sailed into Patuxet’s harbor, captained by
none other than the famous seaman and mercenary soldier John
Smith, former leader of the first successful English colony
in the New World, at Jamestown, Virginia. Epidemic and slavery
followed in his wake, as Debra Glidden described in IMDiversity.com:
In 1614 the Plymouth Company of England,
a joint stock company, hired Captain John Smith to explore
land in its behalf. Along
what is now the coast of Massachusetts in the territory of
the Wampanoag, Smith visited the town of Patuxet according
to "The Colonial Horizon," a 1969 book edited by
William Goetzinan. Smith renamed the town Plymouth in honor
of his employers, but the Wampanoag who inhabited the town
continued to call it Patuxet.
The following year Captain Hunt, an
English slave trader, arrived at Patuxet. It was common
practice for explorers
to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them into
slavery for 220 shillings apiece. That practice was described
in a 1622 account of happenings entitled "A Declaration
of the State of the Colony and Affairs in Virginia," written
by Edward Waterhouse. True to the explorer tradition, Hunt
kidnapped a number of Wampanoags to sell into slavery.
Another common practice among European
explorers was to give "smallpox blankets" to the Indians. Since
smallpox was unknown on this continent prior to the arrival
of the Europeans, Native Americans did not have any natural
immunity to the disease so smallpox would effectively wipe
out entire villages with very little effort required by the
Europeans. William Fenton describes how Europeans decimated
Native American villages in his 1957 work "American
Indian and White relations to 1830." From 1615 to 1619
smallpox ran rampant among the Wampanoags and their neighbors
to the north. The Wampanoag lost 70 percent of their population
to the epidemic and the Massachusetts lost 90 percent.
Most of the Wampanoag had died from
the smallpox epidemic so when the Pilgrims arrived they
found well-cleared fields
which they claimed for their own. A Puritan colonist, quoted
by Harvard University's Perry Miller, praised the plague
that had wiped out the Indians for it was "the wonderful
preparation of the Lord Jesus Christ, by his providence for
his people's abode in the Western world."
Historians have since speculated endlessly on why the woods
in the region resembled a park to the disembarking Pilgrims
in 1620. The reason should have been obvious: hundreds, if
not thousands, of people had lived there just five years before.
In less than three generations the settlers would turn all
of New England into a charnel house for Native Americans, and
fire the economic engines of slavery throughout English-speaking
America. Plymouth Rock is the place where the nightmare truly
It is not at all clear what happened at
the first – and only – “integrated” Thanksgiving
feast. Only two written accounts of the three-day event exist,
and one of them, by Governor William Bradford, was written
20 years after the fact. Was Chief Massasoit invited to bring
90 Indians with him to dine with 52 colonists, most of them
women and children? This seems unlikely. A good harvest had
provided the settlers with plenty of food, according to their
accounts, so the whites didn’t really need the Wampanoag’s
offering of five deer. What we do know is that there had been
lots of tension between the two groups that fall. John Two-Hawks,
who runs the Native
Circle web site, gives a sketch of the facts:
“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 chief, and an 11 foot high wall was erected around
the entire Plymouth settlement for the very purpose of keeping
It is much more likely that Chief Massasoit
either crashed the party, or brought enough men to ensure
that he was not
kidnapped or harmed by the Pilgrims. Dr. Tingba Apidta, in
Folks’ Guide to Understanding Thanksgiving,” surmises that
the settlers “brandished their weaponry” early and got drunk
soon thereafter. He notes that “each Pilgrim drank at least
a half gallon of beer a day, which they preferred even to water.
This daily inebriation led their governor, William Bradford,
to comment on his people's ‘notorious sin,’ which included
their ‘drunkenness and uncleanliness’ and rampant ‘sodomy.’”
Soon after the feast the brutish Miles
Standish “got his bloody
prize,” Dr. Apidta writes:
“He went to the Indians, pretended to be a trader, then
beheaded an Indian man named Wituwamat. He brought the head
to Plymouth, where it was displayed on a wooden spike for
many years, according to Gary B. Nash, ‘as a symbol of white
power.’ Standish had the Indian man's young brother hanged
from the rafters for good measure. From that time on, the
whites were known to the Indians of Massachusetts by the
name ‘Wotowquenange,’ which in their tongue meant cutthroats
What is certain is that the first feast
was not called a “Thanksgiving” at
the time; no further integrated dining occasions were scheduled;
and the first, official all-Pilgrim “Thanksgiving” had to wait
until 1637, when the whites of New England celebrated the massacre
of the Wampanoag’s southern neighbors, the Pequots.
The real Thanksgiving Day Massacre
The Pequots today own the Foxwood
Casino and Hotel, in Ledyard, Connecticut, with gross
gaming revenues of over $9 billion in 2000. This is truly
a (very belated) miracle, since the real first Pilgrim Thanksgiving
was intended as the Pequot’s epitaph. Sixteen years after
the problematical Plymouth feast, the English tried mightily
to erase the Pequots from the face of the Earth, and thanked
God for the blessing.
Having subdued, intimidated or made mercenaries
of most of the tribes of Massachusetts, the English turned
force southward, toward the rich Connecticut valley, the Pequot’s
sphere of influence. At the point where the Mystic River meets
the sea, the combined force of English and allied Indians bypassed
the Pequot fort to attack and set ablaze a town full of women,
children and old people.
William Bradford, the former Governor of Plymouth and one
of the chroniclers of the 1621 feast, was also on hand for
the great massacre of 1637:
"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.
It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time.
It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire...horrible
was the stink and scent thereof, but the victory seemed a
sweet sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God,
who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose
their enemies in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory
over so proud and insulting an enemy."
The rest of the white folks thought so,
too. “This day forth
shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing
the Pequots," read Governor John Winthrop’s proclamation.
The authentic Thanksgiving Day was born.
Most historians believe about 700 Pequots were slaughtered
at Mystic. Many prisoners were executed, and surviving women
and children sold into slavery in the West Indies. Pequot prisoners
that escaped execution were parceled out to Indian tribes allied
with the English. The Pequot were thought to have been extinguished
as a people. According to IndyMedia, “The
Pequot tribe numbered 8,000 when the Pilgrims arrived, but
disease had brought their numbers down to 1,500 by 1637. The
Pequot ‘War’ killed all but a handful of remaining members
of the tribe.”
But there were still too many Indians around to suit the whites
of New England, who bided their time while their own numbers
increased to critical, murderous mass.
Guest’s head on a pole
By the 1670s the colonists, with 8,000
men under arms, felt strong enough to demand that the Pilgrims’ former
dinner guests the Wampanoags disarm and submit to the authority
of the Crown.
After a series of settler provocations in 1675, the Wampanoag
struck back, under the leadership of Chief Metacomet, son of
Massasoit, called King Philip by the English. Metacomet/Philip,
whose wife and son were captured and sold into West Indian
slavery, wiped out 13 settlements and killed 600 adult white
men before the tide of battle turned. A 1996
issue of the Revolutionary Worker provides an excellent
In their victory, the settlers launched
an all-out genocide against the remaining Native people.
The Massachusetts government
offered 20 shillings bounty for every Indian scalp, and 40
shillings for every prisoner who could be sold into slavery.
Soldiers were allowed to enslave any Indian woman or child
under 14 they could capture. The "Praying Indians" who
had converted to Christianity and fought on the side of the
European troops were accused of shooting into the treetops
during battles with "hostiles." They were enslaved
or killed. Other "peaceful" Indians of Dartmouth
and Dover were invited to negotiate or seek refuge at trading
posts – and were sold onto slave ships.
It is not known how many Indians were sold into slavery,
but in this campaign, 500 enslaved Indians were
shipped from Plymouth alone. Of the 12,000 Indians in the
surrounding tribes, probably about half died from battle,
massacre and starvation.
After King Philip's War, there were
almost no Indians left free in the northern British colonies.
A colonist wrote from
Manhattan's New York colony: "There is now but few Indians
upon the island and those few no ways hurtful. It is to be
admired how strangely they have decreased by the hand of
God, since the English first settled in these parts." In
Massachusetts, the colonists declared a "day of public
thanksgiving" in 1676, saying, "there now scarce
remains a name or family of them [the Indians] but are either
slain, captivated or fled."
Fifty-five years after the original Thanksgiving Day, the
Puritans had destroyed the generous Wampanoag and all other
neighboring tribes. The Wampanoag chief King Philip was beheaded.
His head was stuck on a pole in Plymouth, where the skull
still hung on display 24 years later.
This is not thought to be a fit Thanksgiving
tale for the children of today, but it’s the real story, well-known to the
settler children of New England at the time – the white kids
who saw the Wampanoag head on the pole year after year and
knew for certain that God loved them best of all, and that
every atrocity they might ever commit against a heathen, non-white
There’s a good term for the process thus
set in motion: nation-building.
Roots of the slave trade
The British North American colonists’ practice of enslaving
Indians for labor or direct sale to the West Indies preceded
the appearance of the first chained Africans at the dock in
Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. The Jamestown colonists’ human
transaction with the Dutch vessel was an unscheduled occurrence.
However, once the African slave trade became commercially established,
the fates of Indians and Africans in the colonies became inextricably
entwined. New England, born of up-close-and-personal, burn-them-in-the-fires-of-hell
genocide, led the political and commercial development of the
English colonies. The region also led the nascent nation’s
descent into a slavery-based society and economy.
Ironically, an apologist for Virginian
slavery made one of the best, early cases for the indictment
of New England as
the engine of the American slave trade. Unreconstructed secessionist
Lewis Dabney’s 1867 book “A
Defense of Virginia” traced the slave trade’s origins all
the way back to Plymouth Rock:
The planting of the commercial States of North America began
with the colony of Puritan Independents at Plymouth, in 1620,
which was subsequently enlarged into the State of Massachusetts.
The other trading colonies, Rhode Island and Connecticut,
as well as New Hampshire (which never had an extensive shipping
interest), were offshoots of Massachusetts. They partook
of the same characteristics and pursuits; and hence, the
example of the parent colony is taken here as a fair representation
The first ship from America, which embarked in the African
slave trade, was the Desire, Captain Pierce, of Salem;
and this was among the first vessels ever built in the colony.
The promptitude with which the "Puritan Fathers" embarked
in this business may be comprehended, when it is stated that
the Desire sailed upon her voyage in June, 1637. [Note:
the year they massacred the Pequots.] The first feeble and
dubious foothold was gained by the white man at Plymouth
less than seventeen years before; and as is well known, many
years were expended by the struggle of the handful of settlers
for existence. So that it may be correctly said, that the
commerce of New England was born of the slave trade; as its
subsequent prosperity was largely founded upon it. The Desire,
proceeding to the Bahamas, with a cargo of "dry fish
and strong liquors, the only commodities for those parts," obtained
the negroes from two British men-of-war, which had captured
them from a Spanish slaver.
Thus, the trade of which the good ship Desire, of
Salem, was the harbinger, grew into grand proportions; and
for nearly two centuries poured a flood of wealth into New
England, as well as no inconsiderable number of slaves. Meanwhile,
the other maritime colonies of Rhode Island and Providence
Plantations, and Connecticut, followed the example of their
elder sister emulously; and their commercial history is but
a repetition of that of Massachusetts. The towns of Providence,
Newport, and New Haven became famous slave trading ports.
The magnificent harbor of the second, especially, was the
favorite starting-place of the slave ships; and its commerce
rivaled, or even exceeded, that of the present commercial
metropolis, New York. All the four original States, of course,
The Revolution that exploded in 1770s
New England was undertaken by men thoroughly imbued with
the worldview of the Indian-killer
and slave-holder. How could they not be? The “country” they
claimed as their own was fathered by genocide and mothered
by slavery – its true distinction among the commercial nations
of the world. And these men were not ashamed, but proud, with
vast ambition to spread their exceptional characteristics West
and South and wherever their so-far successful project in nation-building
might take them – and by the same bloody, savage methods that
had served them so well in the past.
At the moment of deepest national crisis
following the battle of Gettysburg in 1863, President Abraham
Lincoln invoked the
national fable that is far more central to the white American
personality than Lincoln’s battlefield “Address.” Lincoln seized
upon the 1621 feast as the historic “Thanksgiving” – bypassing
the official and authentic 1637 precedent – and assigned the
dateless, murky event the fourth Thursday in November.
Lincoln surveyed a broken nation, and attempted nation-rebuilding,
based on the purest white myth. The same year that he issued
the Emancipation Proclamation, he renewed the national commitment
to a white manifest destiny that began at Plymouth Rock. Lincoln
sought to rekindle a shared national mission that former Confederates
and Unionists and white immigrants from Europe could collectively
embrace. It was and remains a barbaric and racist national
unifier, by definition. Only the most fantastic lies can sanitize
the history of the Plymouth Colony of Massachusetts.
”Like a rock”
The Thanksgiving holiday fable is at once
a window on the way that many, if not most, white Americans
view the world
and their place in it, and a pollutant that leaches barbarism
into the modern era. The fable attempts to glorify the indefensible,
to enshrine an era and mission that represent the nation’s lowest
moral denominators. Thanksgiving as framed in the mythology
is, consequently, a drag on that which is potentially civilizing
in the national character, a crippling, atavistic deformity.
Defenders of the holiday will claim that the politically-corrected
children’s version promotes brotherhood, but that is an impossibility – a
bald excuse to prolong the worship of colonial “forefathers” and
to erase the crimes they committed. Those bastards burned the
Pequot women and children, and ushered in the multinational
business of slavery. These are facts. The myth is an insidious
diversion – and worse.
Humanity cannot tolerate a 21st Century
superpower, much of whose population perceives the world
through the eyes of 17th
Century land and flesh bandits. Yet that is the trick that
fate has played on the globe. We described the roots of the
planetary dilemma in our March 13, 2003 commentary, “Racism & War,
The English arrived with criminal intent
- and brought wives and children to form new societies
predicated on successful
plunder. To justify the murderous enterprise, Indians who
had initially cooperated with the squatters were transmogrified
into "savages" deserving displacement and death.
The relentlessly refreshed lie of Indian savagery became
a truth in the minds of white Americans, a fact to be
acted upon by every succeeding generation of whites.
The settlers became a singular people confronting the great "frontier" -
a euphemism for centuries of genocidal campaigns against
a darker, "savage" people marked for extinction.
The necessity of genocide was the operative,
working assumption of the expanding American nation. "Manifest Destiny" was
born at Plymouth Rock and Jamestown, later to fall (to paraphrase
Malcolm) like a rock on Mexico, the Philippines, Haiti, Nicaragua,
etc. Little children were taught that the American project
was inherently good, Godly, and that those who got in the
way were "evil-doers" or just plain subhuman, to
be gloriously eliminated. The lie is central to white American
identity, embraced by waves of European settlers who never
saw a red person.
Only a century ago, American soldiers
caused the deaths of possibly a million Filipinos whom they
had been sent to “liberate” from
Spanish rule. They didn’t even know who they were killing,
and so rationalized their behavior by substituting the usual
American victims. Colonel
Funston, of the Twentieth Kansas Volunteers, explained
what got him motivated in the Philippines:
"Our fighting blood was up and we all wanted to kill
'niggers.' This shooting human beings is a 'hot game,' and
beats rabbit hunting all to pieces." Another wrote that "the
boys go for the enemy as if they were chasing jack-rabbits
.... I, for one, hope that Uncle Sam will apply the chastening
rod, good, hard, and plenty, and lay it on until they come
into the reservation and promise to be good 'Injuns.'"
Our military leaders in Iraq continue to personify the unfitness
of Americans to play a major role in the world, much less rule
What does this have to do with the Mayflower?
Everything. Although possibly against their wishes, the Pilgrims
the Wampanoag for three no doubt anxious days. The same men
killed and enslaved Wampanoags immediately before and after
the feast. They, their newly arrived English comrades and their
children roasted hundreds of neighboring Indians alive just
16 years later, and two generations afterwards cleared nearly
the whole of New England of its indigenous “savages,” while
enthusiastically enriching themselves through the invention
of transoceanic, sophisticated means of enslaving millions.
The Mayflower’s cultural heirs are programmed to find glory
in their own depravity and savagery in their most helpless
victims, who can only redeem themselves by accepting the inherent
goodness of white Americans.
Thanksgiving encourages these cognitive cripples in their
madness, just as it is designed to do.
Things are looking up
We began this essay by saying that “the day grows nearer when
the almost four centuries-old abomination [Thanksgiving] will
be deprived of its reason for being: white supremacy.” We firmly
believe this. The wired world works against the Bushites insane
leap to global hegemony, while creating the material basis
for (dare we say the words) brother- and sisterhood among humankind.
It becomes clear that the fruits of millennia of human genius
cannot be captured and packaged for the enrichment of a few
for much longer – and certainly not by a cabal that cannot
see beyond the bubble of its own, warped history. The dim outlines
of a new and more democratic world order can be seen in the
often tentative, but sometimes dramatic actions of movements
and nations determined to construct a fairer way to live. As
the world witnesses the brutality, stupidity and sheer incompetence
of the Pirates currently at the helm of the United States,
the urgency of a common, alternative human project becomes
apparent to all. The “end of history” that the Bushites
triumphantly announce is really the end of them, through
a process they have accelerated with every deranged action
and delusional strategy they have undertaken since 2001.
They are like men in quicksand. White racism as a global scourge
will sink with them, and eventually whither to a mere prejudice
rather than a world-threatening menace.
We at BC are thankful
to be alive in the knowledge that a new world is just over
the horizon, close enough to sense, even if we never see it.
We are optimistic about our struggle in
the United States – if
not, we would never encourage anybody to fight for anything.
We are thankful for Dennis Kucinich for being the real thing,
a genuine social democrat pushing the envelop in civilized
We are thankfully confirmed in our confidence in Black voters,
who continue to resist being bamboozled by Republicans and
Trojan Horse Democrats.
We are so thankful, it makes us hungry. So pass the pie, but
not the pumpkin, please.
Your comments are always welcome.
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