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)