According to several modern scholars, the first official "Thanksgiving Day," held in 1637, had little to do with giving thanks for a prosperous year. It actually celebrated the massacre of 700 Native American men, women and children attending their annual Green Corn Dance at what is now Groton, Connecticut.
In North America, Thanksgiving is said to have originated from a mixture of European and Native American traditions.
History shows that throughout Europe, Pagan festivals were typically held after year-end harvests to give thanks to the forces of nature and to celebrate all the hard work the community had invested. When Europeans first arrived in the Americas, they brought with them their own harvest festival traditions, discovering that Native Americans also celebrated the harvest with feasts and ritual.
In the United States, Thanksgiving is often traced to 1619 Virginia, where colonists are said to have prompted a celebration on the anniversary of the colony’s settlement. Historic accounts show that in 1621, a feast of thanksgiving was also observed at Plymouth to acknowledge the Wampanoag Native Americans who'd helped the Pilgrims survive by providing food and seeds, and teaching them how to hunt and fish.
However, according to several modern scholars, the first official "Thanksgiving Day," held in 1637, had little to do with giving thanks for a prosperous year. It actually celebrated the massacre of 700 Native American men, women and children attending their annual Green Corn Dance at what is now Groton, Connecticut.
According to William B. Newell, a Penobscot Native and former chairman of the Anthropology department at the University of Connecticut, this holiday that for many launches the Christmas holiday season and has now become a national event even in Canada, commemorates an horrific event during which Penobscot Native Americans were ordered from the building where their annual ceremony was being held, at which time they were slaughtered by Dutch and English mercenaries who surrounded the camp and proceeded to shoot, stab, butcher, and burn alive all 700. The next day, the Massachusetts Bay Colony held a feast in celebration of this event, the governor declaring a day of thanksgiving to celebrate victory over the "heathen savages.”
Ardent protests to the celebration of Thanksgiving have taken place through the centuries. In 1863 when President Lincoln decided to declair it a national holiday, Pequot Native American Minister William Apess urged "every man of color" to mourn the day and bury Plymouth Rock in protest. Today, Thanksgiving is seen by many as a celebration of the conquest and genocide of Native Americans by European colonists--much like Columbus Day. Professor Dan Brook of UC Berkeley condemns the "cultural and political amnesia" of Americans that celebrate Thanksgiving, saying, "We do not have to feel guilty, but we do need to feel something." Professor Robert Jensen of the University of Texas at Austin takes a much stronger position saying, "One indication of moral progress in the United States would be the replacement of Thanksgiving Day and its self-indulgent family feasting with a National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting."
Since 1970, the 350th anniversary of Thanksgiving, the United American Indians of New England, a protest group led by Frank "Wamsutta" James who has accused the United States and European settlers of fabricating the Thanksgiving story to whitewash genocide and injustice against Native Americans, has led a "National Day of Mourning" protest on Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock in Plymouth in the name of social equality and in honor of political prisoners.
Each year since 1975, when the Occupation of Alcatraz By Indians of All Tribes took place on Thanksgiving Day, Native Americans hold "Un-thanksgiving Day" observances to mourn the deaths of their ancestors, fast, dance, and pray. In 1996, the United American Indians of New England brought the annual pilgrim parade to a halt, forcing marchers to turn back toward the seaside. In 1997, a group of Native American and other supporters conducting a peaceful protest on Thanksgiving were assaulted by Plymouth police, county sheriffs, and state troopers on horseback. Men, women, children, and elders were beaten, pepper sprayed, and gassed, with twenty-five arrested--among them Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and a 67-year-old Penobscot elder. Videotape was later produced to confirm the assault and ensuing police brutality.
Supporters of "Un-Thanksgiving" wish others to keep in mind that Plymouth is known as "Americas Hometown."
Thanksgiving Day Celebrates A Massacre, Johyn Westcott and Paul Apidaca
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