Thanksgiving is coming in about 2 weeks. Of all the national holidays this one is the most divisive in my life and among my friends. Half of my friends say they do not celebrate thanksgiving because there really is nothing to celebrate and others get all gooshy over the thanksgiving myth.
Much of early American history is more myth than fact, It seems to me that history is less about truth and more about instilling a feeling of pride and patriotism in America and being American. Yeah we’re #1 and all that. Being Indian, my view of American history can at times be radically different from your average citizen.
Lets take Pilgrims for instance. The common myth is that they set sail to the new world for freedom of religion. Well that is close to the truth but it was not freedom of religion it was freedom to practice “their” religion. They were forced out of Britton. Holland certainly cried no tears when they left for America. Once landing they immediately outlawed any faith that was different from their own.
Myth #2. The Pilgrims invited the uncivilized savage Indians over for a meal to give thanks to God for their survival. Excuse me? Thanking God? God did not provide the food caches they raided. God did not teach and assist them in how and what to plant and what was edible or not. God had no hand in that, but Indians did. The food caches were laid down by Indian people, Squanto and others provided knowledge and assistance to the newcomers in surviving the fast approaching winter. Thus begins a long traditions of ignoring the contribution of Indian people to the formation and success of the colonies and America.
Myth #3 Pilgrims brought the idea of Thanksgiving to America. That is patently false. Indian nations all over the Americas have a great tradition of giving thanks that goes back thousands of years before the Pilgrims landed. Even today we give thanks for the morning, for our food etc. This was not a foreign import in any way.
Without the Wampanoag there would have been no Thanksgiving. The Indian people brought large amounts of food. They ensured that the Pilgrams survived their first winter here. The idea of a fall feast to give thanks was ingrained in their culture long before the Mayflower landed.
My intention is not to be hard on Pilgrims. In fact Thanksgiving is one of the few mutually agreeable incidents that occurred between Indians and Colonists, I am pointing out that the common beliefs are incorrect. Yes it may tarnish the myth and some would say it is historical revisionism but if history is wrong who does that serve?
I am not done yet.
Now to my Indian friends who stoutly claim “I do not celebrate Thanksgiving!” Yea I hear you, you have a point and it is valid. Why celebrate something like Thanksgiving what do we, as Indians, have to be thankful for?
I think we can all find quite a bit to be thankful for if we put Plymouth rock and the pilgrims aside. Thanksgiving is our holiday! It is in our culture to give thanks. I have no Pilgrims at my table there is no reason you need have them either. Use the day to give thanks in our way.
I do not know about other Nations but I am Lakota and I know for a fact that if my ancestors saw me pass up an excuse to have a feast they would say I was witko, crazy.
To my Indian brothers and sisters, it is time to take Thanksgiving back, make it our own again. I am sure there is plenty we can be thankful for. If you need help here is a good one to start with.
“We are alive. we are still here.”
I am thankful for that.