Mike Raccoon Eyes Kinney in Native Condition. Discussion »
SAN FRANCISCO - In researching the origins of Thanksgiving, one of the best is one written by Susan Bates, Cherokee, which is printed here with permission from the Manataka American Indian Council:
In 1614 when a band of English explorers sailed home to England with a ship full of Patuxet Natives bound for slavery, they left behind smallpox which virtually wiped out those who had escaped.
By the time the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts Bay they found only one living Patuxet, a man named Squanto who had survived slavery in England and knew their language. He taught them to grow corn and to fish, and negotiated a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation. At the end of their first year, the Pilgrims held a great feast honoring Squanto and the Wampanoags.
But as word spread in England about the land to be found in the new world, the Christian Puritans began arriving by the boat load. Finding no fences around the land, they considered it to be in the public domain. Joined by other British settlers, they seized land, capturing strong young Natives for slaves and killing the rest. The Pequot Nation had not agreed to the peace treaty Squanto had negotiated and they fought back. The Pequot War was one of the bloodiest Indian wars ever fought.
In 1637 near Groton, Connecticut, over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival. In the predawn hours the sleeping Native village were surrounded by English and Dutch mercenaries who ordered them to come outside. Those who came out were shot or clubbed to death while the terrified women and children who huddled inside the longhouse were burned alive.
The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared "A Day of Thanksgiving" because 700 unarmed men, women and children had been murdered.
Cheered by their "victory", the brave colonists and their Indian allies attacked village after village. Women and children over 14 were sold into slavery while the rest were murdered. Boats loaded with as many as 500 slaves regularly left the ports of New England. Bounties were paid for Indian scalps to encourage as many deaths as possible.
Following an especially successful raid against the Pequot in what is now Stamford, Connecticut, the churches announced a second day of "thanksgiving" to celebrate victory over the heathen savages. During the feasting, the hacked off heads of Natives were kicked through the streets like soccer balls. Even the Wampanoag did not escape the madness. Their chief was beheaded, and his head impaled on a pole in Plymouth, Massachusetts where it remained on display for 24 years.
The killings became more and more frenzied, with days of thanksgiving feasts being held after each successful massacre. George Washington finally suggested that only one day of Thanksgiving per year be set aside instead of celebrating each and every massacre of racial extermination.
Later Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving Day to be a legal national holiday during the Civil War, on the same day he ordered troops to march against the starving Sioux in Minnesota.
So, Thanksgiving has a different meaning for American Indians than it does for other Americans. We remember things differently.
Mike Raccoon Eyes Kinney is of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, out of Quallah, North Carolina. He is Native Advocate for more human and civil rights for Indian Country for the past 25 years. He is the San Francisco Bay Area delegate for the Inter-Tribal Council of California. He is a writer and author on traditional and contemporary issues of Indian Country, as well gives inspirational motivational talks about the spiritual empowerment of Native Peoples. He currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.
posted November 24, 2011 6:30 am est
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