Tomorrow Americans will engage in the celebration of a cherished historical myth of the #Thanksgiving holiday. As the myth goes, a misunderstood sect of English Protestant Christians fled religious persecution in Europe for North America. They befriended the Natives and had a beautiful meal together. Indigenous peoples have spent decades opposing this myth and this holiday in an attempt to educate the public as to the true history of this land. Each time we are met with vehement condemnation from both the Right and the Left that we dare attack this mythologized history. One of the most significant voices in the history of opposition to First Thanksgiving mythology was Wamsutta (Frank B. ) James a leader of the Wampanoag Nation in the 1970s.
Suppression of Wamutta's speech
The Massachusetts Department of Commerce had originally asked the Wampanoags to provide a speaker for the 350th anniversary of English arrival in the Dawn Land (what the settler colonialists now call New England). Wamsutta was selected, but the Chamber wanted to see his speech beforehand. They were shocked by the words of his speech. Wamsutta corrected colonial historical revisionism, and told the true story of English colonization of his people's lands, and the genocide of his people at English hands. The Chamber refused to allow him to give the speech and Wamsutta, to his credit, refused to read a speech prepared by public relations. The speech was suppressed, but readers can still find it through an Internet search. It is worth reading. The political consciousness of indigenous nations throughout the US was ignited during this period, known historically as the "Red Power Era", of the 1960s and '70s.
American Indians takeover the Mayflower
One of the most famous, if not the most famous, voices of this generation was American Indian Movement leader Russell Means (Oglala Lakota). Means led A.I.M. Activists in a remarkable political action. In 1970, the same year of Wamsutta's speech, they took over the replica of the English ship known as the “Mayflower II” in protest of the continuing violations of indigenous rights by the US government. There is a famous photo of Means delivering a passionate speech in front of the statue of the great Wampanoag leader Massassoit who tried to defend his people against English colonial aggression. A.I.M. Declared Thanksgiving a “national day of mourning” in solidarity with the indigenous peoples of the Dawn Land. For generations they would fast in remembrance of the fallen while Americans gorged themselves in celebration of the myth. This disconnect from reality continues today.
The ugly truth about the so-called First Thanksgiving
The real “First Thanksgiving” of 1621 was not a friendly meal. As Charles C. Mann points out in the book “1491: New Revelations of the America's Before Columbus” the Wampanoag Chief Massassoit brought over 90 warriors to the meeting with the English whom he rightly did not trust. It is true they shared a meal, but no women were present. Instead it was a tense political discussion where Massassoit asserted the rights of his people in their homeland and made sure the English understood they were their only at his behest. Subsequently, in 1637 the English colonists brutally massacred an entire Pequot village, burning them to death and shooting them down as they fled into the swamps. The English celebrated in “thanksgiving” for their deaths. Perhaps this is the origin of #Police Brutality against Native people. The English would later perpetrate a genocide against the peoples of the Dawn Land reducing them to a few hundred in number and confining them to small territories. Today indigenous water protectors are being brutalized by the fascist agents of #Climate Change while Americans will again celebrate the Thanksgiving myth. Stand in solidarity with Standing Rock and the peoples of the Dawn Land by opposing this mythologized and racist history.