The Wampanoag now wanted to remind White America of what had happened after Massoit's death. He was succeeded by his son Metacomet, whom the colonists called "King Phillip". In 1675-1676, to show "gratitude" for what Massoit's people had done for their fathers and grandfathers, the Pilgrims manufactured an incident as a pretext to disarming the Wampanoag. The whites went after the Wampanoag with guns, swords, canons and torches. Most, including Metacomet, were butchered. His wife and son were sold into slavery in the West Indies. His body was hideously drawn and quartered. For twenty-five years afterward, Metacomet's skull was displayed on a pike above the white's village. The real legacy of the Pilgrim Fathers is treachery.
Most Americans today believe that Thanksgiving celebrates a bountiful harvest, but that is not so. By 1970, the Wampanoag had turned up a copy of a Thanksgiving proclamation made by the govenor of the colony. The text revealed the ugly truth: After a colonial militia had returned from murdering the men, women, and chilfren of an Indian village, the governor proclaimed a holiday and a feast to give thanks for the massacre. He also encouraged other colonies to do likewise-in other words every autumn after the crops are in, go kill Indians and celebrate your murders with a feast.
Three Essays to Parents on the True Thanksgiving
Korey Henson's letter to his Mother about the True Thanksgiving
After quite a bit of contemplation, I have decided that I will not
be joining you for Thanksgiving this year. It's just that I refuse to
celebrate an event that included the death of over 11,000 Wampanoag Indians
due to illnesses that they contracted from white settlers (Sultzman, 1998).
Remember how tradition says that the Pilgrims landed and the Indians
helped them? Well, the truth of the matter is, when the Pilgrims arrived,
they found an abandoned Wampanoag village and moved right in (Plymouth,
1998). In 1618, a massive epidemic of an unknown disease left by English
explorers swept across Wampanoag country and decimated many of the villages
(Timeline, 1998). This epidemic caused the death of ten to thirty percent of
the total population and all but a few of the 2,000 people of the village of
Patuxet (People, 1998). When the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, they landed at
Patuxet with no idea of what had occurred (Sultzman, 1998). At this point,
there were only about 2,000 members left in the Wampanoag tribe, down from
12,000 in 1600 (Sultzman, 1998). Despite the incredible losses to his people,
Wampanoag leader Massasoit and 90 of his men sat down for a harvest
celebration offered by the white men (People, 1998). For three days the
Wampanoag and Pilgrims feasted on deer, wild turkey, fish, beans, squash,
corn and other foods native to North America (Plymouth, 1998). Although the
celebration was good natured, this event truly signifies the beginning of a
drastic decline of native culture and Thanksgiving would be more fittingly
observed as a day of mourning rather than a celebration (People, 1998). In
the years that followed, skirmishes occurred and more Native Americans were
killed (Sultzman, 1998). In 1637, 700 Pequot men, women and children were
massacred by English soldiers as an example of the English way of war, yet we
still celebrate Thanksgiving as a joyful event (People, 1998).
Ok, so maybe I was a little drastic, and I actually will be there
for Thanksgiving this year. However, I do think that it would be beneficial
to consider some changes in our attitudes. So, as we sit down for our
Thanksgiving dinner, let us consider the words of Wampanoag tribe member
Frank James in his 1970 speech. "Today is a time of celebrating for you...
but it is not a time of celebrating for me. It is with a heavy heart that I
look back upon what happened to my people. When the Pilgrims arrived, we,
the Wampanoags, welcomed them with open arms, little knowing that it was the
beginning of the end" (Loewen, 1998). Now I don't know about you, but that
doesn't leave a very festive taste in my mouth.
Imagine it's the year 1945, you're living in the Ukraine, and World War II has just come to and end. As you attempt to comprehend what has just happened, you realize that you have lost almost all of your family. The entire population has declined by twenty-five percent. The larger cities are hardest hit with almost fifty-three percent of their inhabitants killed. (Gregorovich 1995) Is this a time for offering thanks and creating a national holiday?
Apparently the Pilgrims felt that mass loss of life was reason to offer thanks. A typical history textbook, the American Tradition provides for us an account of what happened to the Pilgrims, "Unfortunately, they had arrived in December and were not prepared for the New England winter. However, they were aided by friendly Indians, who gave them food and showed them how to grow corn. After harvesting their first crop, they and their Indian friends celebrated the first Thanksgiving" (Green, Becker, Coviello / as taken from Loewen 77).
The traditional story of Thanksgiving does contain some credibility. A journal from a group of merchants who were present at the celebration confirm that the settlers and the Indians did meet for a harvest celebration that lasted three days. "And although it be not alwayes so plentifull, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty" (as taken from Winslow / Baker 1998).
Sounds like the perfect Thanksgiving; the gathering of friends and family to give praise for all they have. However, the textbooks never mention the great plague and mass destruction that the Pilgrims brought with them. Author James W. Loewen describes the terrible plague, "Within three years [of 1618] the plague wiped out between ninety percent and ninety-six percent of the inhabitants of coastal New England. The Indian societies lay devastated" (80-81).
The settlers were elated at the sight of the dying Indians. King James is even quoted as giving thanks to, "Almighty God in his great goodness and bounty towards us for sending this wonderful plague among the salvages [sic]" (as taken from Ziner / Loewen 86).
Just as the Germans tried to deny the Holocaust, and the Russians the genocide of the Ukrainians, so do we deny the injustice dealt upon the Native Americans. The Ukrainians were hunted down in their own homeland and viciously executed. The diseases spread by the Pilgrims produced the same outcome. "As they lie on their hard mats, the pox breaking and mattering and running one into another, their skin cleaving by reason thereof to the mats they lie on. When they turn them, a whole side will flay off and they will be all of a gore blood" (Bradford / as taken from Loewen 80). The text books refuse to tell us what actually occurred to the Indians because the national image of the loving and caring Pilgrims would be destroyed. "The first Thanksgiving occurred in New England, where a group of colonists had a big feast to celebrate the massacre of Indian people" (Staddon 1995). Thanksgiving should be a time of mourning and reflection for those Native Americans who lost their lives. America honors the lives of those men who have died in battle, and it is time that they honor those Native Americans who were unmercifully killed.
Dear Mom and Dad,
College has been such an eye opening experience! I've learned so many things that aren't taught in textbooks, most debunking the myth that we live in an ideal world. In my Skeptical Inquirer seminar, we've been discussing several controversial issues, one being discrimination. If you think about it, history is filled with examples of discrimination, the most prominent being the enslavement of African Americans, the extermination of six million Jews during the Holocaust, and the interment of over 110,000 Japanese Americans. (Uno, as cited in Nashimoto 1995) While these examples are the most renowned, there are tons more. For instance, I found out that Mussolini used mustard gas to kill masses of people in Ethiopia. In 1970 Kampuchea, one to two million people were killed by a revolutionary government campaign. During the secession of Bangladesh in 1971, an estimated three million Bengalis were massacred! (Kuper, as cited in Marrus 1987)
I guess history repeats itself, and it's obvious that America is not immune to the disease of prejudice. It has even been said that the "United States is a genuinely racist society." (Fredrickson 1988) One conspicuous example is that of the Native Americans and the first Thanksgiving. Do you remember when I played the pilgrim in the school play? Well, after doing some research into the truth about Thanksgiving, I realize that little skit was a complete farce! While we learned of Squanto and bountiful harvests, our teachers neglected to tell us the whole story. I never learned of the horrible diseases the Europeans brought to the "New World"; epidemics which killed ninety to ninety-six percent of the Indians. (Simpson, as cited in Loewen 1995) We were taught that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1620 when the English settled Jamestown. Did you know that Native Americans had been observing annual harvest rituals for centuries (Stoddard, as cited in
Loewen 1995) and Thanksgiving as we know it wasn't celebrated as a national holiday until 1860. (Loewen 1995) To repay the Indians for their hospitality, the European settlers ravaged the land, greedily claiming what the Native Americans held sacred by robbing graves and houses. By the end of King Phillip's War, only 400 of the original 12,000 Wampanoag Indidans had survived. At the expense of thousands of lives, Americans now proudly call this land theirs. (http://www.iwchildren.org)
It seems to me that there is a common thread running through all these instances. In most cases, acts of violence against a particular group of people are committed by people who believe they are superior. These people have been conditioned by their society to believe that anyone different from themselves is wrong or evil. I think we fear what we don't know, so maybe the solution is to be open-minded and educated. "If a reduction in fear leads to greater tolerance, its increase promotes hostility". (Fredrickson 1988)
Through trial and error, we've found out that molding people into stereotypes doesn't work.
Don't you think we'd be better off embracing the differences? I've leaned that we do the
country a great disservice by not acknowledging the heritage and history of all its citizens.
Now, along with the turkey and stuffing, you'll have food for thought this Thanksgiving.
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