Life through my myopic eyes.

Thanksgiving, a Perfect Time to Reflect


English: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymo...

English: “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember being taught in grade school about the first ever Thanksgiving celebration. We were taught how the Pilgrims were so thankful to have made it through their first winter in “The New World” that they wanted to celebrate with their Indian friends. Friends who were instrumental in helping them to survive in the  new world.

But the new arrivals didn’t let their friendship keep them from taking advantage of their “saviours.” It wasn’t too much later that white men bought what would later be known as Manhattan Island from a local tribe for a parcel of beads, mirrors, brightly coloured cloth and cheap weapons.

The acquisition journey had begun and the “new” settlers were already pushing their way into lands already occupied by Native Americans and in pushing their way in, the Indians were pushed out.

And so the history of America which is pretty much glossed over in school textbooks, is the history of conquering a nation that belonged to someone else. The eastern Native Americans fought against this never-ending  tide of white settlers and because of their location were able to see first hand how they were never going to stem this tide.

Only one Indian nation managed to fight successfully, but that was in the wilds of Florida where the geography helped the inhabitants. The settlers still won though and forced the remnants of a once great tribe further west.

As time marched on, the settlers became known as pioneers. Eternally seeking more land, more places where no one had been before. No one, that is, except for the locals. The Native Americans who had been there since time out of mind.

These pioneers were just as determined as their ancestors, the pilgrims and settlers in taking this new country over and calling it their own. Even more so with the discovery of gold in the Black Hills of Dakota. Once precious metals were factored into the equation the rest of the country was not just taken over by “well-meaning” pioneers.

Now the west was being overrun by folks just interested in getting rich. Never mind that the land and the minerals legally belonged to someone else. This was destiny partner. The new world had land and riches just waiting to be snatched up. Don’t worry about the natives. They are just savage and ignorant. They don’t even realise how valuable their land is.

But let us not be deceived, it was not just personal avarice that affected the legal occupants of America. It was an entire races greed. Greed that originated in another country. England to be exact.

You can discount the school tales taught to our children about how America was the place where people who had been vilified and reviled for their choice of religion went to get freedom to worship their deity as they chose. America, in the beginning, was never about freedom of religion.

It was about acquiring a country and its resources and minerals for nothing more than the sweat and blood it required to wrest it from the legal existing populace.

Later when the Apache and the Comanche (and other) tribes were fighting to drive this white menace away from their lands, it was deemed acceptable for entire villages to be wiped out. These were heathens after all, they were not considered to be children of “our god” and their number should be decimated. All the easier then to convert the remnants of the tribe into Christianity.

After a couple of centuries had passed and schools dotted the countryside, the myth of the first Thanksgiving being taught to all those children to show how magnanimous the Pilgrims were in including the native savage contingent of the New England colony’s.

I suppose in an ironic way, it was more than appropriate for the new settlers to invite the tribe to the feast. They were not only thanking the Indians for their help, but they were thanking them for the country that they would be instrumental in helping to take over.

I will be celebrating Thanksgiving today, but on a very personal level. Being thankful is not a bad thing, unless of course you are thanking God for helping you to destroy an existing culture and nation.

So as an American, both in the Native American sense and otherwise, I think Thanksgiving is a perfect time to reflect on how we got where we are today. And I suppose to be thankful that the white settlers did not decide to eradicate the original occupants of the “new world.”

Chief Sitting Bull

Chief Sitting Bull (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Categorised in: History, Personal, Philosophical, Reflective, Social

15 Responses »

  1. One of my favorite posts from you, Mike! Very true, and I’m glad there are some who still remember the truth about what happened. Being of both English and Native American descent, I really appreciate you taking the time to write this up! Happy Thanksgiving again, for the right reasons! :)

  2. The Natives from whom they “bought” Manhattan island didn’t own it. Overall, however, our mistreatment of Native Americans is about as ugly as any genocide in history. Slightly less organized than the Germans, but almost as effective. This is not a big celebration days for Native Americans. Generosity was their first mistake.

    • I can think of no other example where taking pity on your fellow man has yielded such a devastating result. Although as you saw the Native American’s who “sold” Manhattan didn’t own it, I guess they were the forerunners to selling the Brooklyn Bridge… :-)

  3. Reblogged this on Serendipity and commented:
    There’s another side to the story. Not a pretty story.

  4. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I see things all over the place acknowleging the true history behind Thanksgiving, and I sometimes wonder how useful they truly are. Anyone who has even a slight interest in the truth probably understands the sordid history of genocide underlying this holiday season by now. Unfortunately, none of us can do anything to change it. However, I can’t help but get the feeling that all of this recounting of the naughty things us white folks did to the natives depresses people’s enthusiasm for Thanksgiving, and in turn robs them of the opportunity to practice gratefulness that this holiday uniquely offers. What all of us should take from Thanksgiving is the same thing the English settlers should have understood as well: true happiness lies not in the acquisition of new things, but in the appreciation of what we have here and now.

    Please don’t take this as a criticism of your post. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and found it well written. I am truly grateful for your contribution.

    • Thanks mate. Being of mixed heritage I tend to look at both sides of the coin. I spent years celebrating Thanksgiving and never looking at it from my Native American viewpoint. When I was younger (a whole lot younger) folks didn’t even like to admit that they had Native American ancestry. It took me until I became an adult to wonder why this was and the price my ancestors paid. But that is history. When a superior force moves into an area the weaker technologically inferior force will always lose out. :-)

      • They lose out unless they are the Navi, aided by Sam Worthington. You oaughta know that, Miles Quaritch. ;) In all seriousness though, I’m really grateful again for this article. Being descended from the Algonquin families of Maine, I’ve always had a heart for Native Americans, and tremendous respect for their cultures. It’s not at all uncommon for me to be joked on for defending the Native tribes around family and friends. They’re so easily ignored and forgotten today. I know we’ve talked about this before, but what tribe are you descended from, Mike?

      • Three tribes actually. Cherokee, Choctaw, and Wyandot who were part of the Huron. On both sides of my family full blooded Native American was present from my Great grandparents.

      • Cool, Mike. It was a hard reply for me to write, because I really didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, and I didn’t want to suggest that history was not important. I have a co-worker who’s Lakota and he really dwells on the history a lot. It seems to bring him down and that makes me sad.

      • The best thing to do with history is to learn from it. As Winston Churchill said, those who do not are doomed to repeat it. :-)

  5. That’s pretty awesome, and some great tribes! :) Most of my Native American heritage is on my mother’s side. My Great, great grandfather was actually a chieftain of the Penobscot (Sounds impossibly dramatic, I know. But true.), and my grandmother, one of his descendants, today looks like a tiny (but tough) shaman woman. :) You’d never believe it, placing her beside me, that she’s my grandmother, as only me English and Irish genes show through. That’s great though that your family has kept that knowledge intact; too many have no idea where they come from. :/ Thanks for the share, Mike!

  6. Mike, Calvera was right. ‘Generosity…that was the Native Americans first mistake.’.

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