Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Truth About Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving all!
What a fun holiday to get together with family and get in the Christmas mood as we gleefully commit the sin of gluttony, all while reciting our many blessings!
That sounds sarcastic, but in reality it is in accurate description of Thanksgiving and it sounds pretty awesome to me!
As I write this, Eli and I are noshing on donuts and cider and watching the parade, which features a huge Sponge Bob balloon looking like it is suffering from polio.  Hmm...

Anyhow, I enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving and all it entails, but it has always bothered me how the joyfully ignorant tell their kids "This was the day when the pilgrims and the Indians sat down and ate together!!!"
On the same subject, when we received our voter pamphlets this year, one of Utah's amendments was regarding setting aside part of tax money to go toward what they called "an Indian trust fund."
Really?! We sending money over to them peeps in India now??!
Keep in mind that was from a federal political document. What. The. F*ck.  Yes, I'm sending them a strongly worded letter.

People have been terrible about that lately (and always, lets be honest).
They ain't Indians, America! They're Native Americans, cos they were here before us.  No offense.

And on Thanksgiving, many Native Americans on the East Coast celebrate too.
But for them it isn't about Butterball turkeys and spiked cider--it is a day of mourning.
Because the pilgrims destroyed their way of life.

Nearly 90% of coastal New England Native Americans were killed in the early years of settlement, from smallpox mainly, and the settlers were more than willing to take their land off their hands.

Some historians also argue that the picture we paint of the natives and pilgrims sitting down at the table together, after sharing their mutual culinary beliefs, is an illusion as well, instead arguing that after pilfering native crops on several occasions, the pilgrims saw the natives celebrating their harvest and crashed their party.

What happened in what is now Mystic, Connecticut, validates this theory.
The Pequot tribe was having their annual Green Corn Festival and some crack ass crazy Puritans stormed in and shot them, clubbed them, and burned them to death - - more than 700 Native Americans, woman and children included.
Apparently Massachusetts Bay Governor Winthrop proclaimed this a "day of Thanksgiving" in 1637, thanking God for giving the settlers strength over the heathen natives.

When you compare that to the revisionist history that is pleasantly taught in schools today, it makes you shudder a bit.  I know I always have to bite my tongue when my nephews and niece come home from school with construction paper Native American headdresses and crayon scrawls of pilgrims, and members of both cultures holding hands. Oh, our Mandatory Miseducation...

 I know we can't tell kids "Our ancestors slaughtered the Native Americans, buddy! More than 10 million natives were slaughtered in the name of colonial progress and religion! Let me tell you how it really happened..."  but we do need to provide different versions of history and elucidate the truth as they get older, because we're just creating new generations of ignorant Americans--the same kind that think the reason we're at odds with the Middle East is because they're jealous of our democracy.

We can still teach them about Squanto instructing pilgrims on planting squash and that in some villages there was friendship between natives and the new settlers, but we need to balance those accounts with the more disturbing side of history (every part of history has a disturbing side! And it is usually more interesting!). Just "Google" anything related to "truth about Thanksgiving" or "Thanksgiving revisionist history" to educate yourself.  Lies My Teacher Told Me is also a fun resource.

So, on this Thanksgiving, please remember your American history.
Be thankful that information is available to give us the truth and that you have the right to believe what you choose.  Be thankful that you can be with your family and feast on turkey with cranberry relish.  Be thankful for polio Sponge Bob and American capitalism and the commercialism of Christmas (I guess it means the economy is coming back).  Be thankful for elves dancing Gangnam Style.
And be thankful for the wonderful diversity of the world, and our country.

Please forgive my history nerd cynicism, and truly enjoy the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

1 comment:

  1. I didn't think this was nerdy or cynical. Everything you wrote is true, and tragic. And Thanksgiving is a day of mourning for the native nations. Maybe it's not too late to change that-- we do all still share a country, after all, however unequally. For what it's worth, I'm trying to promote the idea of Americans adding a Native American product to their Thanksgiving Tables. History is history, but perhaps going forward we can help Native agriculture and arts prosper by supporting them, and Thanksgiving is not a bad place to start. The idea is new, I've only begun to promote it (starting with Twitter, @IreneS212), but I hope it is a step toward a future that is better than our (I'm white) shameful past.