Historical context sheds light on Thanksgiving horrors

Georgios Kollidas

by Matthew Smith

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Thanksgiving has become the most tasteless holiday in the U.S. I’m not talking about the god-awful turkey we eat every year. I’m talking about the holiday’s misguided tradition, history and the reasons behind why we celebrate it. It’s a holiday rooted in murder, genocide and imperialism. Thanksgiving is a celebration of terrorism and eating the turkey is essentially taking blood money for the evil deed.

The traditional story of Thanksgiving can be traced back to the three-day feast held in 1621 by the Pilgrim colonists and the Wampanoag Indian tribe in New England to celebrate the Pilgrim’s first harvest. Both groups already had similar Thanksgiving traditions. However, neither group called the dinner “Thanksgiving,” celebrated it afterward, nor was turkey on the menu. The only source we have of it is a single paragraph from a letter by Edward Winslow, one of the Pilgrim colonists at the dinner. It’s a misleading story, which has been manipulated to paint a rosy picture of Europeans being nice to Europeans, with no credible evidence to link it to today’s Thanksgiving.

In fact too many people misconceive Thanksgiving to be a religious holiday—similar to Christmas or Easter—in which we thank God for our blessings.  It contradicts the story about the Pilgrims and Wampanoags, which had no original religious meaning at all.  Thanking God does have its origin in the holiday, but for terrifying reasons which would shock most people.  Sadly, the true story has been covered up to make it look like a kinder, gentler holiday, similar to third grade history classes distorting American relations with Native Americans.

What’s not mentioned is the genocide of American Indians, the massive land theft, and the destruction of their culture which happened soon after the feast, as well as before, and continued for hundreds of years. Around the same time of the feast, the Puritans—a group of religious zealots from England—began to settle in the nearby Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Thanksgiving we know of today and the practice of giving “thanks to God” can be traced back to Puritan John Winthrop, the Governor of the Massachusetts colony.

In 1637, Winthrop held a “thanksgiving” to thank God for the slaughter and burning of a Pequot village near the Mystic River, known as the Mystic Massacre. Nearly 700 Pequot men, women, and children were murdered by British and Dutch mercenaries and the ones who surrendered peacefully were later executed.

“A day of thanksgiving kept in all the churches for our victories against the Pequots, and for the success of the assembly; but by reason of this latter, some of Boston would not be present at the public exercises,” Winthrop wrote in his journal. “The captains and soldiers who had been in the late service were feasted, and after the sermon the magistrates and elders accompanied them to the door of the house where they dined.”

Unfortunately, this massacre was swept under the rug because the winners get to write the history books. It’s buried secretly in primary sources such as Winthrop’s journal, and was pushed aside for indoctrination of Christianity and blind patriotism. This wasn’t the first or the last act of ruthless violence against Native Americans, and was a part of larger extermination of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. It spanned hundreds of years beginning with Christopher Columbus’ first expedition in 1492.  It was a massive Native American holocaust that killed several million more than all the Jews murdered by Nazi Germany. Many of these deaths can also be blamed on disease, slavery, forced labor, warfare, forced assimilation and encroachment upon Native lands.

We need to scrutinize holidays such as Thanksgiving and Columbus Day. They’re rooted in barbaric violence. Too many people don’t even have basic knowledge of the holiday beyond their own traditions involving turkey, football and various religious connotations. We have been raised to brainlessly glorify heroes and war victories without examining the true motives or facts behind the story. We simply do what we’re told by our politicians, educators, and corporations without questioning the purpose or what really happened. The truth has been whitewashed, while we have been brainwashed by endless propaganda.

Unfortunately many people have become too attached to the Thanksgiving tradition and they view it solely as an opportunity for family unity and giving thanks. It’s understandable to want to be with family and be thankful for the good stuff, but there are 364 other days a year to do so. I refuse to stoop low enough to celebrate Thanksgiving.


Courtesy of Thinkstock

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