[News] The Myth of Thanksgiving

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 27 16:08:58 EST 2014



      The Myth of Thanksgiving

By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz 

Thanksgiving is the favorite holiday of many US Americans; unlike the 
rather boring or divisive holidays that honor Columbus 
Presidents, Martin Luther King, Jr., Independence, veterans and war, the 
birth of a religion, and a new year, Thanksgiving is centered on sharing 
food with family and friends. Individuals and families travel long 
distances at great expense to be with one another. It might be 
surprising to learn that the cherished tradition of Thanksgiving is, in 
fact, the most nationalist of all holidays because it narrates the 
national origin myth. The traditional meal, as we know, consists of the 
foods cultivated by Indigenous farmers—corn, squash, pumpkin, sweet 
potatoes, and turkey.

The US origin story of a covenant with God goes back to the Mayflower 
Compact, the first governing document of the Plymouth Colony. It is 
named for the ship that carried the hundred or so passengers, half of 
them religious dissidents, to what is now Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in 
November 1620. This compact marked the beginning of settler democracy, 
which from its inception sought the elimination of the Indigenous. 
Behind the black clothed and solemn “Pilgrims,” was a corporation of 
shareholders, the Virginia Company, accompanied by armed and seasoned 
mercenaries on a colonizing project ordered by the English King James. 
If any local Natives were present at a colonizers’ celebratory meal, 
they were surely there as servants, and the foods were confiscated, not 
offered as a gift.

“Thanksgiving” became a named holiday during the Civil War, but neither 
Pilgrims, nor Indians, nor food, nor the Mayflower—all essential to 
today’s celebration—were mentioned in Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation.

It was during the Great Depression that the Thanksgiving holiday was 
transformed into a nationalistic origin story to bind a chaotic society 
experiencing economic and social collapse. But this idea of the 
gift-giving Indian, helping to establish and enrich what would become 
the United States, is an insidious smoke screen meant to obscure the 
fact that the very existence of the country is a result of the looting 
of an entire continent and its resources.

In 1970, on the 350^th  anniversary of the English 
settlers—“Pilgrims”—occupying land of the Wampanoag Nation, the United 
American Indians of New England led a protest of the Thanksgiving 
holiday, which they called a “National Day of Mourning 
<http://www.uaine.org/dom.htm>.” Every year since that time, the 
National Day of Mourning has taken place at Plymouth Rock. They rightly 
accuse the United States government of having invented a myth to cover 
the reality of colonialism and attempted genocide. By Thanksgiving 1970, 
Native Americans from many Indigenous nations had been occupying 
Alcatraz Island 
a year. It was the height of renewed Native resistance to US colonial 
institutions and calls for sovereignty and self-determination, which 
have continued and seen many victories as well as new obstacles. In 
2007, after three decades of Indigenous Peoples’ lobbying, the United 
Nations General Assembly passed the “Declaration on the Rights of 
Indigenous Peoples 

Thanksgiving needs another transformation, a day to mourn US 
colonization and attempted genocide and celebrate the survival of Native 
Nations through their resistance.


BarrieKarp_2012. Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, at Memorial for Shulamith 
Firestone at St. Marks Church, NYC, Sunday, September 23, 2012 
Dunbar-Ortiz has been active in the international Indigenous movement 
for more than four decades, and is author or editor of seven books 
including the recently published /An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the 
United States 


Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org

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