Although there was a dinner in 1621 Between Pilgrims and Two Native American translators, that’s not where the word Thanksgiving came from nor is it what Thanksgiving originally celebrated. In recent years, you may have noticed how the media had turned that Thanksgiving into a “give thanks to the troops” or our heroes day, complete with a rolling statue of liberty and giant balloon uncle Sam’s at the Macy’s parade. That unapologetic nationalism and war support is actually much closer to the original Thanksgiving holiday than the revised mythology of brotherly love, peace, and sharing. We’ll see if they do that again this year.
Thanksgiving has changed several times and the rituals we celebrate today were all added in at different times. Also to make things confusing, the Native Americans really did have several festivals a year that happen to correlate with different harvest days in Europe. The first “real” Thanksgiving that even remotely resembles the mythology between Europeans and Natives was done in the Summer in 1585 on Croatoan Island in what’s now Cape Hatteras North Carolina. However the claims about the Thanksgiving feast of today came way after this event had been long forgotten and it got attributed to another area. The original Thanksgiving was once a set of holidays for the British colony of Massachusetts. They were celebrating three different massacres of Native Americans. The Mystic River massacre had 700 Natives murdered, where their long houses were set on fire and those fleeing the flames were ran through with swords. The colonists gave Thanks to the Christian God for their victories. Later these events were morphed to one day, and it became a state holiday. When the British Colonies became the United states, it remained a state holiday, although it was scarcely celebrated and nearly forgotten. Eventually it became a National holiday through a decree by Lincoln during the Civil War, and this is where the fairy tale stories of brotherly love come from. At last, Roosevelt changed the date of the holiday for commercial interests and that is what the date still is today. Unofficially the day after Thanksgiving has become a national buy-things on sale for xmas day. Still the prevailing story is about the famous dinner, and the Mystic River Massacres have long since been swept under the rug. And the real feast on Croatoan has been omitted from the pages of history.
History can be colored in such a great degree that it simply becomes false. Everyone in the US and Canada has heard the official story of Thanksgiving. You hear about it in grade school. It’s a nice tale of racial harmony and happy co-existing cultures sharing food in a feast and giving thanks, apparently without contradictions to pantheist concepts and monotheistic myths from sun worship perverted to a self sacrificing sadomasochistic god of ego demanding worship and issuing out eternal punishment for nonbelievers and who thought it was necessary to have a son (or become a his own son) and torture and kill it as a sacrifice to himself in order to be able to save everyone from his own wrath so long as they believe in his masochistic tantrum. Also known as Christianity.
The American colonies, many of which existed long before the more famous Jamestown in Virginia or the Plymouth Rock colony in Massachusetts, were pirate colonies. Sir Walter Raleigh of the “Roanoke” colony was a notorious privateer. The only Thanksgiving that even remotely fit the mystical tale it would be the meeting on Croatoan which thanks to a famous fictional play by ultra racist Paul Green, became known as the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke. That’s an Island of North Carolina not to be confused with an area of Virginia by the same name.) However the “Lost colony” was never lost. And only a small portion of it was ever on Roanoke Island. The Colonists lived on present day Hatteras Island for years before ever going to Roanoke, and when a portion of them left Roanoke, they didn’t just go to Hatteras/(Croatoan), they went back to Hatteras. And they literally spelled this out on a tree.
It didn’t become missing until 1937 when Paul Green’s play created the myth out of thin air. He also wrote plays. “Common Glory” and “The Founders” which were about the Revolutionary War and the Founding Fathers, which were equally mixed with fact and fiction. They used to play in the old King’s theater in Williamsburg VA. Perhaps because those events were much later than the 1584 expeditions and because so much had already been written about both, the last two plays didn’t have as much of a poisoning effect to Actual history as did the “Lost Colony.” Apparently Paul Green didn’t like the idea of White inter racial marriages with “savages” nor would his 1930s audience, so he just made it a huge “mystery” as to what happened.
This mythology as history is only now slowly being reversed. But there are other myths about Natives that are taught in dumb down public school systems. For example, few people outside of small school children, still believe in the Pocahontas mythology any more than they believe other American folklore like John Henry and Johny Apple Seed, but nothing quite has the spin put on it like the Thanksgiving story from Massachusetts.
This merry little feast didn’t happen. It did not happen in Massachusetts or Virginia. In the North the English enslaved the Petuxet Indians and sent a ship full of their slaves to England in 1614 six years before the Mayflower came with colonists people are familiar with. Plymouth was the third colony by the English in the New World, the first being a “failure” in what is now North Carolina, in 1584, and second was the oldest successful colony, Jamestown in what is now Virginia established 1607. The Plymouth colony was not the first English speaking colony to visit what is now Massachusetts. The Plymouth colony was just the first English speaking people to permanently squat there. Massachusetts is a Native American word which means “at or about the great hill.” When the English were capturing slaves in the new world, they left behind smallpox which decimated Native populations (sometimes as much as 90%!!). The Natives had a lack of resistances to Old World diseases which evolved slowly in the Old World developing with the 13 different domesticated herd animals (which did not exist in the New World including horses, the Spanish brought those there) along side their populations. Note that before vaccinations one of the first observations made in the fight against Small Pox was that milkmaids who contracted cow-pox were not getting Small Pox. Cows were also not native to the Americas.
The old Patuxet area had been nearly abandoned because of Small Pox. One survivor who had also been an English slave from a young age (and may have contracted cow-pox) was the famous man named Squanto, who could speak English. In the history books this is painted as some great chance miracle, because they don’t want people to know about the previous voyages, how they had been enslaving American Indians and purposely spreading diseases.
Here is what happened at the so called dinner that Thanksgiving now tries to associate itself with. Keep in mind that this is not what Thanksgiving originally celebrated. This dinner wasn’t attached to the holiday until much later.
The belligerent colonists in the north were fanatically religious, and outstandingly prejudice. They were starving to death after walling themselves up to protect themselves from backlash to their unchecked provocations. Ending trade, they were forced to negotiate. Colonists were particularly aware of their hunger as they would have been celebrating the English Harvest days had they been at home. They invited a Native man named Massasoit to dinner, or more accurately allowed him to come into the settlement because his band had bagged 5 deer. The colony was heavily inebriated as was necessary both for the calories and control. Massasoit honored his band’s fortune with the tradition of sharing and invited 100s of Natives to the feast who also brought food. The Europeans were not amused but hunger took precedence. They actually blamed the Indians for hording food. It was not long before they were murdering the Indians again. All in the good lords name of course. So they didn’t share food, the colonist accepted food from the Natives, what they shared was alcohol.
In the 1630s just a dozen winters or so from the arrival of the Mayflower and only a few years after the arrival of Christian Zealots known as Puritans, the real mass butchering began. In 1637 Europeans forces cornered 700 Natives mostly women and children at the mouth of the Mystic river. They shot and beat to death the men and burned everyone else in longhouse fires.
It was this Mystic River massacre along with 2 other large massacres that had Richard Bellingham the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declare it a Thanksgiving. Much later, it was George Washington who finally suggested that only one day of Thanksgiving per year be set aside instead of celebrating each and every massacre. Of course they didn’t label them as massacres, they saw them as god assisted triumphs. In 1863 Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving Day to a legal national holiday. Lincoln needed a brotherly mythology as in his war, it actually was a matter of brother against brother and the Natives North of and West of the Union could threaten to create a new front. It was from Lincoln that a mythology became historized. FDR would later establish the fixed date of the next to the last Thursday in November for Thanksgiving mainly for commercials interest as it was considered inappropriate to advertise products for Christmas until after Thanksgiving. This gave everyone an assured long weekend to sell. Yes even back then people put up xmas lights and decorations months before Christmas. It is the largest capitalist holiday you know. It is not that mythologies are bad it’s just that they are not true and when it comes to history we have a duty to uphold the truth including the bad and the ugly.
Of course people celebrating today are not celebrating the massacres of Native Indians. Today the myth has been attached to an alleged dinner where the Pilgrims were saved from starving by the Indians. Or sharing food with the Indians. Most point to a dinner in Massachusetts and some point to a dinner in Virgina.
There is a prevailing myth about the Jamestown inhabitants as well.
The Jamestown colony was sent to grow and ship back tobacco to England in exchange for food often under the conditions of “work or starve.” Many of the inhabitants didn’t leave to flee oppression or freedom of religion, they were normally debtors driven to serve the the interest of the crown or go to jail. The choice was debtor’s prison or getting on a boat. Debts could be frivolously made by arbitrarily jacking up the tenet costs above the means of the tenets. It was all about maximizing profits for the use of the land. A new invention in the method of processing wool made the old Lord and tenet system less valuable than exporting wool from sheep. (a renewable resource to expand the money supply) So tenets were intentionally driven off the land into jail or sent to colonize. It became more cost efficient to use land for sheep than for peasants. So the best way to collect more from peasants or force them to move so that sheep could be brought in, was to simply raise their rates and taxes. And that is why people left.
There was a feast in Virginia in 1623 and it was between Pilgrims and Indians. Captain William Tucker and 12 of his men met with the Pamunkey and Chief Opitchapam under a flag of peace. Opitchapam was the successor of Wahunsonacoc (Powhatan). Captain Tucker and Dr. John Potts had poisoned the wine. Reportedly 200 Indians fells sick (died) and 50 more were then fired upon and killed. Opitchapam escaped. His brother Opechancanough was who caught John Smith who Pocahontas supposedly saved in that story. Odd how the rescue story wrongly became history but the poisoning and shooting became omitted. The capture and rescue story is widely held as a myth too, despite what Disney says. However at least the names were right. Opechancanough was a real person. The tale was based on a literary trend of the time particularly playing on the Europeans’ fascination with how Native women worked, and thus the role reversal of the man being rescued by a woman was an intriguing and a fashionable tale told many times over.
Today however people just want to eat with family and maybe watch the Redskins play football on TV. What is a Redskin anyway? It’s not the color of an Indian obviously. That’s about as stupid as thinking that Asian people are yellow. And yet sadly although most people know that Asians are as white as whites don’t know about American Indians because so many were killed that it is not uncommon for someone to have never met an American Indian. And I mean a real Indian not some pretindian with blue eyes who claims to be “part Cherokee.” And so the myth prevails.
Bounties were set on the head of Indians with the price for a woman’s scalp being the highest (something that lasted until the 1930s) to encourage murder. And that is where the term Redskin comes from. Native Americans are not red. The red refers to the blood stained scalps which acted like trophies.
In fact you may have heard the myth that when the Spanish “accidentally discovered” the new world they thought they were in India and this is why the people were ignorantly named Indians, a name that did not change despite later indisputable evidence that they were indeed not in India. Now this is not what happened either but even within the myth, for it to work, Native Indians would have to look like Indians of India who are not red. And if that’s not enough for you then put it this way, American Indians today are not red. Nobody evolved that fast either.
There is no mention of (Asian) Indians being red, but light skinned to dark skinned browns, which they made a nifty little religiously supported racist caste system for and kept a very good record of as it was very important to them.
Columbus himself is a myth with in a myth. Columbus didn’t really think he was in India. And the word Indians was just a root for indigenous. That’s why they never changed it. And he wasn’t a brave champion of saying the world was round nor was he setting out to prove that. That’s an American fable told to school children. Most of the world, including even Europe, knew and believed the world was round. Only a minority of Christians and Jews thought otherwise and no one else. The Indians too knew the world was round. Columbus went to conquer and pillage. I hate Columbus but basically all the stories you learned in school is just that, pure children’s stories. Columbus was a genocidal maniac. The town that built his ships did so to repay debt for the crown’s war kicking out the Moors from Spain. How fitting that the bigotry and racism would spread abroad.
And he did not discover the Americas. For one he never even made it to the main land. Secondly for at least 492 years before his famous voyage the vikings had already been in both Canada and Greenland. They even inhabited Greenland. Columbus was the first CATHOLIC to discover the Americas and that is why he is credited with the whole discovery. He was a Knight a Malta hardcore Christian. The man fed children to dogs and made a sport of hanging bodies up by tying them up by their arms and hacking at them the way one would cut a tree down. And this guy has his own holiday.
By 1671 the English and Dutch mercenaries were in a full scale war with the Wampanoag and Chief Metacomet who they renamed King Philip, (thus King Philip’s War) because the whole concept of a society not ruled by a (divinely appointed) central figure determined by bloodlines, was a totally alien and incomprehensible to the “civilized” English. They just invented a king to fight.
It was quite common actually for the English to kidnap Native American youths to teach them English and the Bible and later use them as interpreters. The founding of the college of William & Mary (where I went to school) in Williamsburg/Jamestown was set up at first as a religious divinity school consisting of three subjects, Philosophy which was actually Christian theology, English, and Religion which was more like the practice of it rather than the studying of it, much like church vs. Sunday school. One of the main buildings was a house for Indians who were forced to go there. They were taught English and Jesus. Oh there were also some half-hearted pretext for “scientific research” to gather grants for the charter. The School nixed an agreement in their charter to Robert Boyle (of Boyle’s law). They were supposed to send him his scientific requests for the New World’s Flora and Fauna. They never gave a thing. And then he died. But they already took his money.
Interestingly, today W&M is not run by the likes of James Blair, despite having a huge black statue of the ugly Holy Roller, and they have put more pride in their Thomas Jefferson, George Washington roots. In a sense of redemption to Boyle perhaps, the college promised to have and has collected at least one indigenous tree from all over the America and placed it on the campus including the United States’ most northern palm tree (which sits next to the heater of the English building) and Redwood trees, which fell in 2003 because of the leftover winds from hurricane Isabel, thus breaking that tradition and promise. (Virginia was not hit by a hurricane, only a tropic storm however all the news reports would disagree with the actual evidence and wind speeds which define a hurricane. That’s just another example of revised history)
The Plymouth settlers were more disruptive than any storm however. They did not see any fences on the land, a European marking of property administered by the church vestiges, and so they assumes everything was public land, and they stole land, food and children from the Wampanoag who were unlucky enough to be living near them and trust them. This led to conflict. The Settlers were not friendly to the Natives they built an 11 foot high wall around their settlement complete with 5 cannons. The Natives quit trading with the Pilgrims who, lost in an unknown land with foreign crops, ended up in the same position as the Virginia colonies, they faced starvation.
In Virginia, however, that problem was compounded by the top down order to grow tobacco instead of food and sell it to England in order to buy food. Nathaniel Bacon put an end to that, but not in the heroic way we were all taught about the rebelling proletariat. What he did was gather a mob and go around burning other poor people’s tobacco crops insuring that he and his mob could sell their own for a higher price which ensured the others would starve. He then kidnapped the governor’s wife and the wives of his strongest supporters and had Indian allies who ignorantly/innocently saw the struggle as a rebellion against a corrupt leader.
Nathaniel Bacon’s rebellion which is colored today as the proletariat rebelling against the wealthy elite was nothing of the sort. Bacon and his mob burned the tobacco fields of other poor people in order to get a higher price for their own yield. He was angry with the governor for not allowing him to kill more “Indians” who the governor had made peace with.
Bacon’s tactics worked as you are all familiar with. He celebrated by attacking Indians at night and killing the men, and I think we know what happened to the women. That’s the part left out of PC history books. Bacon attacked the Pamunkey (who are still surviving but currently only number 58 people. It is extremely rare for any of the original Native American groups from the East coast to have survived) He attacked the Occaneecheee and pitched a fit at Governor Berkeley for not appointing him as the General for all Indian affairs. The elite did not care, they wanted people to starve to death as it relieved them of their 7 and 6 year contracts which promised land in exchange of the indentured servitude. Once again Bacon was no more than Berkeley’s land pirate/terrorist who between the two egos nearly burned all of Jamestown. Problem, action, solution.
And here is another myth.
Some people falsely think that Europe had potatoes before contact, they did not. The Irish potato famines were in the 19th century and those were largely manufactured not natural. The English were exporting food to England from a starving Ireland. The immigrants didn’t just leave for freedom, they were driven out to escape starvation and trumped up debts they couldn’t pay. The English won either way. I say England rather than Britain because that is who it was. The Bank of England which is privately owned was a large part in all of this, as was other mega companies like the East India Tea company. The EIT was a private corporation larger than some nations. That island has been ruled for a very long time by corporate plutocrats and it still is. The former Republic of the USA is currently headed for an economic collapse and is stuck in perpetual war the driving force of which is Religious fanaticism, namely Zionism and military industrial banking complex.
Potatoes came from the Americas. The first to bring them back to Europe were the Spanish. Also form the New World came, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes, Oranges, Grapefruit, Squash, Vanilla, Cranberries, Corn, Turkey, Chili Peppers, Peanuts, Manioc, Pineapple (from Brazil not Hawaii) Avocados, Cashews, (modern/genus Fragaria) Baens, Pumpkin, and Chocolate (coacoa the Swiss added the sugar to it). Yes although most of the chocolate in the world today is made by virtual slaves in Africa, it originally came from Mexico. [Also common garden Strawberries are a hybrid of two Native American strawberries one form Chile and one from Virginia.]
If you think the crimes of the past have gone away because people don’t talk about them and cover things up with stories think again.
In the 1970s Under the Family Planning Act approved By George Bush Sr. 42% of Native women were targeted for sterilization. At the same time another scandal mothers of white children were told that their babies had died and then the perfectly healthy babies were sold to rich families (unaware of what was going on) looking to adopt white children. Ric Flair the famous Pro Wrestler who lives in North Carolina discovered that he was one of those children and he wrote about it in his book. This was in America. Babies could be stolen from mothers and other potential mothers could be sterilized. Bush Sr. was part of the Family Planning Act. Well he is the son of a Nazi sympathizer/financier and just look at what his sons have done particularly George Jr. Oh they can not be as overt in their racism as they used to but believe me it never went away. Bush reminds me of those psychotic Puritans burning people by the river. He thinks he is doing the Lords work and called his wars a crusade. As the saying goes “We have to learn history or we are damned to repeat it.”
Who are the real savages? Who are the terrorists?
Converting “savages” gave the paternal English who polluted all their own rivers and at one point deforested their whole island, and had public floggings of women and executions as a staple of entertainment, a reason to justify their brutal conquests of “uncivilized” people. People should read what Red Cloud and other Natives brought to England and France had to say about their visits to the Hellish lands. It’s very interesting what he says.
When will we unchain history and not censor the brutal past for the sake of feel good fantasy and stories? Never, probably never. On a lighter note, Turkey Day has morphed into a positive and loosely Native American Holiday. The common foods were once exclusive to the Americas. It’s also a time to gather the family, to pig out and give thanks.
We want everyone to enjoy your Thanksgiving feast but we do want to point out the hidden history of it, not that that is what is celebrated today.