Native Americans share the long neglected truth about Thanksgiving | Indigenous Rights News

Every year on the fourth Thursday of November, Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States.

National Day—one of the busiest travel periods in the United States—is a time when families across the country gather for a traditional meal of roast turkey, pumpkin, corn, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie.

According to popular legend, the Thanksgiving feast can be traced back to a friendly gathering of British pilgrims (settlers travelling on the Mayflower cruise ship) and Native Americans in today’s Plymouth, Massachusetts, about 400 years ago.

But for the indigenous people who have called the area home for at least 12,000 years, The arrival of the British colonists Leading to the plague, genocide, and intergenerational trauma that continues to this day.

“Today’s narrative about Thanksgiving ignores our history,” said Steven Peters, a member of the Gmashpi tribe in Wampanoya, Massachusetts, who believes Thanksgiving is National Day of Mourning.

“It paints a picture of these helpful Indians who are waiting for the arrival of pilgrims so that we can teach them how to successfully hunt, fish and grow crops,” Peters told Al Jazeera, but he emphasized. This is not the real purpose. happened.

‘Great interruption’

Now, the Wampanoag people are promoting the recognition and response to the legacy of colonialism and its lasting impact on indigenous peoples and communities throughout the United States, thus regaining the history of Thanksgiving.

When the first European explorers arrived in North America, the Wampanoag people were a thriving coalition consisting of 70 villages with approximately 100,000 people.

The name of the Wampanoag people means “first light” and they live on the west coast of Cape Cod Bay. Deer and elk in the forest live on fertile land, and there are fish and clams in the river. They grow corn, pumpkins and beans. In the cold winter, they moved to live inland, away from the harsh North Atlantic climate.

An interior view of “Weety8” seen in a museum in Mashpee, Massachusetts, the winter residence of Mashpee Wampanoag. [File: Stephan Savoia/AP Photo]

But sometime around 1616, Europeans who arrived in the New World brought a virus that destroyed the indigenous population.

Peters said the villagers began to show signs of illness, with yellow skin, fever and blisters. An unknown plague swept the Wampanoag nation. Once sick, most people will die within a few days. It is estimated that 80% to 90% of the population will be eliminated within three years.

The Wampanoag people call it the “Great Disruption.”


Peters said that a few years before the Mayflower arrived in 1620, a group of British explorers kidnapped about 20 Wampanoag people who were subsequently sold to Spain as slaves. Peters said he today It is the guardian of Wampanoag’s historical story.

Among them was a man named Tisquantum, who traveled from Spain to England and finally returned home before the arrival of the Mayflower.

Tisquantum, also known as Squanto, discovered that his village had been wiped out by the plague. But after learning English, he served as a translator and guide for the early religious separatist pilgrims.

Historians learned of the first Thanksgiving from a letter written by Edward Winslow, one of the pilgrim leaders.

“When our crops arrived, our governor sent four people to fight the birds so that we could rejoice together in a more special way after collecting the fruits of our labor,” Winslow wrote.

Winslow wrote that a group of about 90 Wampanoag people, Peters said they may be fighters, participated in a three-day feast and entertainment with the pilgrims. This feast relieved the colonists’ fear of hunger.

In this scene in the 1960 film, pilgrims, led by a drummer boy, march to the church after their first Thanksgiving feast [AP Photo]

Little is known about the other circumstances of that encounter, but history provides some background.

For 50 years, under the leadership of Wampanoag Chief Massasoyt, colonists and Wampanoag people have formed an alliance and co-existed.

However, when Massasoit died, his youngest son became the chief and abandoned the peace agreement after the colonists violated the peace agreement, which was written by David J Silverman in 2019 entitled The book “This Land Is their Land” (This Land Is their Land) has a detailed description.


From 1675 to 1678, a devastating war broke out between the Wampanoag and the colonists. Hundreds of people were killed on both sides, and when the conflict ended, the Wampanoag were defeated. Many people were executed or sold as slaves.

“Our language was taken away. Our children were sent to boarding school. The family was torn apart. In the end, we lost our land due to taxes. So we had nothing,” Peters told Al Jazeera.

“Once upon a time, our number could be reduced to 1,000 or less. We are on the verge of extinction,” Peters said.

The rock piles in the forests of the northeastern United States from Rhode Island to Maine may mark the historic Indian cemetery where 17th-century European settlers and Native Americans fought a brutal war [File: Brian Snyder/Reuters]

For more than two centuries, the legend of Thanksgiving has been regarded as a harvest festival by American colonists until President Abraham Lincoln declared it a day of prayer and thanksgiving for the nation during the American Civil War in 1863.

Some historians believe that the first official British Thanksgiving feast may have occurred in Virginia around 1619, when a group of colonists were ordered to hold an annual ceremony to thank them for coming to the New World.

But the British colonists of the Poitan nation fought a series of wars with the Virginia tribe. Over time, colonists pushed Native Americans to reservations or headed west to the Appalachian Mountains.

Peters said that there are about 10,000 Wampanoag people today, and the community is still growing.

Community leaders are working on the development of affordable housing, employment, and education. They are also working to revive the Wampanoag language, including the use of biblical texts translated 350 years ago.

By the mid-1800s, as the number of native speakers declined, Wampanoag had basically disappeared.

The Mashpee tribe also built a museum in Mashpee, Massachusetts, with exhibits and videos showing the community aspect of Thanksgiving stories.

Peters said: “We are trying to rebuild something that we took away from us.”

“Through our exhibitions, videos, artists’ interpretations and other education, we can begin to break some of the stereotypes and systemic racism that continue to exist in our society today.”

The histories of other Native American groups are also included in narratives that once only told the European aspects of the American story.

In the historic district of Williamsburg, Virginia, once the capital of the British colony, performers are sharing history and knowledge Native tribes of Virginia In a living historical camp.

The Pamunkey, Mattaponi, and Chickahominy tribes often appeared in Williamsburg and other Virginia settlements in the 18th century.

“The story of the United States is incomplete without understanding the aboriginal people and their impact on the building of our country,” Cliff Fleet, the president of Colonial Williamsburg, said in a statement. letter Celebrate American Indian Tradition Month in November.

Toodie Coombs of East Falmouth, Massachusetts (right) distributes prayer booklets written in Wampanoag and English [File: Steven Senne/AP Photo]

Like the aboriginal communities in Massachusetts, the aboriginal communities in Virginia increasingly recognize their tribal rights when dealing with states in the state. For example, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s last order before leaving office in January required state agencies to consult with tribes before making decisions that affect important indigenous lands and waters.

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden became the first president of the United States Recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day On the same day as Columbus Day, this is a festival to commemorate the Italian navigator Christopher Columbus, which Native Americans have long protested.

Some Columbus statue In recent years, due to the persistent legacy of colonialism, they have been withdrawn from American cities.

Instructing America’s transformation, Biden’s appointment De Harland, Native American from Arizona, former member of Congress, served as Secretary of the Interior, the United States Department of Native Affairs.

Recently, Biden Host a summit On November 15th, 570 tribal leaders from all over the United States held at the White House. The White House announced billions of dollars in new infrastructure, social, and public safety plans for American tribes, including better recognition of their historical treaty rights.

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