No Thanks: How Thanksgiving Narratives Erase the Genocide of Native Peoples (Truthout, 26-11-2015)
Thanksgiving has nothing to do with Native American and Indigenous people. Its purpose is to serve the capitalism of empire.
This mural, “Reconcile,” was produced by Gregg Deal in 2014 in Washington, DC. While offering commentary on the local professional football team, the mural also puts indigenous stereotype, identity and appropriation in a historical context. (Credit: Gregg Deal)
Thanksgiving is a nationalist holiday defined by the rituals of making money and self indulgence. Nationalist traditions advance the idea of the freedom to be happy by erasing the consequences of imperial capitalism.
Those traditions are certainly not about the “first Thanksgiving” in 1637. John Winthrop, governor of an English colony in what is now Massachusetts, held a feast in honor of a volunteer militia who had returned from their massacre of 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Nation. The federal holiday was established in 1863. By then, the mythic narrative had become the national truth: Pilgrims (Americans) gave thanks for surviving, thanks to the “Indians” who fed them and taught them how to grow corn.
Nothing about the myth, of course, is about Native people, neither the genocide and enslavement - nor the survival - of the Pequot Nation or other Native nations in New England. Thanksgiving erases the genocide, sexual violence, land fraud and hate that defined early colonial histories and that continue to define US-Native relations. It distorts into a magically happy scene of an extended family dinner, including the “racial other,” a relationship that was and is actually based on slavery, poverty, war and rape. And it shames and belittles Native people who contest and contend the representations as wannabe politically correct, overly sensitive, “not enough” trying to grab onto the public spotlight for themselves.