we recognize the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving, now is
the time for the United States to deprogram itself from the myth of
the Thanksgiving narrative — that fake history that tells us
the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock and became friends with the
Native Americans, and they all lived happily ever after.
reality is far more troubling, a history of the slaughter and
dislocation of indigenous people. And it is incumbent upon us to
honor and acknowledge the original people of this land and the
suffering they have endured.
all live on stolen land, land which was built over ancestral burial
grounds. But do we know who came before us, and who cultivated the
land for thousands of years? I live in Philadelphia on the
traditional lands of the Lenape people. Whose land do you occupy? Do
you know? And do you care?
of the first encounter between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags,
Thanksgiving is a time of mourning, part of “The Great Dying”
when disease brought on the Europeans’ Mayflower ship nearly
wiped them out. The Wampanoags, who were on the land for 10,000
years, taught the White people how to plant crops and get through
their first harvest, ensuring their survival. Contrary to the myth
that the Pilgrims shared in their bounty and invited the Wampanoags
over for a dinner feast, no such event occurred.
what did take place was a slow-moving genocide of the Native people,
who regret to this day that they ever helped those White colonists
survive. In the hundreds of years since, the Indians would endure a
nightmare of land stealing and broken treaties, of massacres and
children forced into boarding
These schools were a form of cultural and actual genocide where
thousands of children were abused, killed and separated from their
culture and language, all meant to “Kill the Indian in him, and
save the man.”
is a Thanksgiving celebration for those who wish to partake in
folklore and fairy tales — like Santa Claus and the Easter
Bunny — is a nightmare for those Wampanoag people who were
thanked for their generosity and humanity with mass murder,
homelessness and trauma. Often invisible in today’s society,
Native American people are marginalized, if not left for dead.
the U.S. does not acknowledge the humanity or existence of First
Nations if society still allows racist sports team names, mascots,
logos and rituals, and harmful
media images and reporting
reflecting the worst racial stereotyping of Native Americans. These
racist mascots have psychological
for American Indian youth, such as depression,
suicide and substance abuse.
Why are the Atlanta
and their tomahawk
still a thing? And while the Cleveland
just became the Cleveland Guardians — and the Washington
Redskins apparently became nameless — what took them so long?
is based on myths. Because that is what keeps the status quo going.
This is why some White people would rather criminalize the teaching
of the true history of this country, the legacy of genocide of the
Native Americans, and enslavement of Black people. Knowing this
history forces you not to look away, but rather to confront it and
deal with it head on.
always taught children that George
down the cherry tree and couldn’t tell a lie, or that he had
wooden teeth. But what if children learned the truth? For example,
Washington owned Black people, including Ona
who escaped from the presidential mansion in Philadelphia. And he
wore the teeth of enslaved African people in his mouth.
it is far easier to believe the whitewashed storybook fantasy that
Pilgrims and Indians broke bread and celebrated together than it is
to accept that 5
to 15 million indigenous people
were wiped out since Christopher
“discovered” America in 1492, and the U.S. later became a
White settler colonial state.
as we have undertaken that badly needed decolonization of Columbus
Day and made way for Indigenous
to take hold, America must unpack Thanksgiving and deprogram itself
of White supremacist mythology and historical revisionism. This was a
story with no happy endings, except for murderers, plunderers and
land thieves. And yet, while the nation can never begin to erase or
reverse what has happened since Plymouth Rock landed on us 400 years
ago, America must acknowledge and repair the harm that was done.
commentary was originally published by The