The First Thanksgiving is a myth. It forms a part of the state religion of the US. Many may be confused by this assertion. Was not the US explicitly founded upon the principle that there is no official state religion? In principle yes, but in practice no. The state religion of the US is the glorification of historical villains, the vilification of historical heroes, and carefully crafted creation myths regarding the origin of the United States. One of the most beloved of these myths of state propaganda is the story of the First Thanksgiving.

The Myth

Previous articles have discussed, that the First Thanksgiving was anything but a peaceful meal between Native people and the English colonists whom they had presumably befriended.

Subsequent Thanksgivings were in celebration of the 1637 Massacre of the Pequot nation at Mystic. As if the Thanksgiving myth were not bad enough, the racist mythology of the American West is perhaps worse. A disgusting modern example is that every year on the racist holiday of Thanksgiving, the NFL deliberately schedules a game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Racists (what many Native people call the Washington, D.C. football team). This disgusting perpetuation of the “cowboys and Indians” myth from American Western movies is vehemently opposed by the majority of indigenous peoples in the US.

We are not mascots

Native people have opposed the racist stereotypes of American Indian sports team mascots for over 50 years. They have successfully retired many of the racist mascots through nonviolent popular resistance.

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Opposition is strongest to the Washington, D.C. team because of it's use of a dictionary defined racial slur against Native Americans as its official team name. A national movement, Change the Mascot, successfully convinced the US Patent and Trademark office to cancel the team's trademark on the basis that it disparages Native Americans only a few years ago. Team owner Dan Snyder has ignored massive Native American opposition to the racist team name and once insisted they would never change it. Washington, D.C. is home to a large professional class of Native Americans who work in the US capital for various organizations which advocate for public policy for Native people.

No honor in red face

Every football season they are confronted with the images of racist yahoos dressing in ridiculous faux Native costumes. When real indigenous peoples confront them about their racist behavior, team fans react with hate, racism and anger. They make the absurd claim that somehow their stereotypical mockery of Native culture is in “honor” of Native people.

Native people reject this claim and insist that if they wanted to honor us, they could be demanding that the US government honor our treaty rights. America no longer tolerates the despicable racism of black face performances. These were white actors who blackened their faces and depicted African Americans in a racist stereotypical way for comedic effect to their racist audiences. Just as African Americans do not tolerate the racism of black face, Native Americans refuse to tolerate the racism of red face. The dehumanization of Native people by mascots leads to violence against them.

We are still here

In the book “Earth Into Property: Colonization, Decolonization, and Capitalism” Anthony J. Hall discusses the historian Frederick Jackson Turner's essay on the American Frontier. Turner's “frontier thesis” glorifies American territorial expansionism. It did not matter to Turner that millions of indigenous peoples were slaughtered. Educated white Americans of the late 19th Century believed the Native peoples of North America would disappear by the 20th Century. As well they should, they thought, because they were “in the way of progress.” Today, indigenous peoples are still here defending the homeland against Police Brutality and corporate terrorism. Success may come by eradicating racist myths of the frontier, Thanksgiving, and mascots.