Thanksgiving is the day in which we give thanks to the birds who bravely accommodated themselves to the fattening of our equator-like American waistbands, in order to commemorate the first Thanksgiving between the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions.
Of course if we’re not too sluggish and lackadaisical following our tryptophan-induced turkey coma, we then immediately start celebrating the momentous birth of the flatscreen tv by trampling on some octogenarian greeter at Wal-mart for a great deal on the latest thing Apple is shoving down our throats.
Honestly, with Christmas creeping earlier and earlier into our lives, Bill O’ Reilly should really be fighting a War on Thanksgiving. Sure, we love to think of all those pasty Europeans as people who just wanted to flee the oppressive Church of England–to practice their own oppressive brand of religion–and accuse people who belch as being witches.
Oh, and belt buckles on hats. But what always seems to get lost in this convoluted web of food and misinformation is the history of Native Americans.
3 Things history got wrong about Thanksgiving and Native Americans:
1. Columbus Did Not Land In What Is Now The United States
Columbus Day may have passed and so perhaps has the statute of limitations on bitching about him, but I don’t care. Columbus actually landed in what is now known as the Bahamas and later Hispaniola, present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic. And when he landed, he was kind of a rapey dick and went all Bill Cosby on many of its lady inhabitants.
“As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts,” wrote Columbus in his journal. (IndianCoutryToday)
2. Pocahontas Was Really Not That Into John Smith
As much as Disney would love for you to think Pocahontas was all gaga for John Smith, she was in fact only 10 when John Smith first arrived.
Here’s an actual account as told by the Powhatan Nation:
Pocahontas” was a nickname, meaning “the naughty one” or “spoiled child”. Her real name was Matoaka. The legend is that she saved a heroic John Smith from being clubbed to death by her father in 1607 – she would have been about 10 or 11 at the time. The truth is that Smith’s fellow colonists described him as an abrasive, ambitious, self-promoting mercenary soldier.
Of all of Powhatan’s children, only “Pocahontas” is known, primarily because she became the hero of Euro-Americans as the “good Indian”, one who saved the life of a white man. Not only is the “good Indian/bad Indian theme” inevitably given new life by Disney, but the history, as recorded by the English themselves, is badly falsified in the name of “entertainment”.
The truth of the matter is that the first time John Smith told the story about this rescue was 17 years after it happened, and it was but one of three reported by the pretentious Smith that he was saved from death by a prominent woman.
Yet in an account Smith wrote after his winter stay with Powhatan’s people, he never mentioned such an incident. In fact, the starving adventurer reported he had been kept comfortable and treated in a friendly fashion as an honored guest of Powhatan and Powhatan’s brothers. Most scholars think the “Pocahontas incident” would have been highly unlikely, especially since it was part of a longer account used as justification to wage war on Powhatan’s Nation.
Euro-Americans must ask themselves why it has been so important to elevate Smith’s fibbing to status as a national myth worthy of being recycled again by Disney. Disney even improves upon it by changing Pocahontas from a little girl into a young woman.
The true Pocahontas story has a sad ending. In 1612, at the age of 17, Pocahontas was treacherously taken prisoner by the English while she was on a social visit, and was held hostage at Jamestown for over a year.
3. The First Thanksgiving Was Actually A Nasty Massacre
You may not know it from your horribly awkward reenactment of it during an elementary school assembly you were forced to attend, but the actual First Thanksgiving was not an affable meal between pilgrims and Indians. On the contrary, it was a freaking massacre of an entire tribe.
We actually carry out in the tradition by arguing about how Obama is or isn’t ruining America over marshmallow-covered yams.
- Here’s an excerpt from The REAL Story of Thanksgiving as written by Susan Bates, via manataka.org:
In 1637 near present day Groton, Connecticut, over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival which is our Thanksgiving celebration. In the predawn hours the sleeping Indians were surrounded by English and Dutch mercenaries who ordered them to come outside. Those who came out were shot or clubbed to death while the terrified women and children who huddled inside the longhouse were burned alive. The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared “A Day Of Thanksgiving” because 700 unarmed men, women and children had been murdered.
Cheered by their “victory”, the brave colonists and their Indian allies attacked village after village. Women and children over 14 were sold into slavery while the rest were murdered. Boats loaded with a many as 500 slaves regularly left the ports of New England. Bounties were paid for Indian scalps to encourage as many deaths as possible.
Following an especially successful raid against the Pequot in what is now Stamford, Connecticut, the churches announced a second day of “thanksgiving” to celebrate victory over the heathen savages. During the feasting, the hacked off heads of Natives were kicked through the streets like soccer balls. Even the friendly Wampanoag did not escape the madness. Their chief was beheaded, and his head impaled on a pole in Plymouth, Massachusetts — where it remained on display for 24 years.
Thanksgiving, as we know it, was actually a massive political PR stunt by Abraham Lincoln. According to a member of the Wampanoag tribe, “It was Abraham Lincoln who used the theme of Pilgrims and Indians eating happily together. He was trying to calm things down during the Civil War when people were divided. It was like a nice unity story.”
So if you truly want to reenact the First Thanksgiving, then it seems you will have to scalp Grandma.
Featured Image via Wiki Commons