Just as with others, I celebrated Thanksgiving in the ‘American tradition’ for the longest time by usually working. Working in a hospital and specifically, radiology, someone is working 24/7. And when I wasn’t working, well it just another day to eat a lot & drink beer. I didn’t pondered too deeply the actuality behind the celebration until after I had sobered up, and that – that’s to just help delineate the clarity of thought which occurred between, say, then and now. There was much that I railed against and none so forceful as when drinking. It just rarely went anywhere.
The propagandist story I knew was far from truthful. It rages right up there along with the Puritans escaping to find religious freedom here. [Nu-uh; it was to establish a theocracy of their own which was stifled by among others, Roger Williams.] As Mahtowin Munro writes: “It’s a celebration of pilgrim mythology.“
According to this mythology, the pilgrims arrived, the Native people fed them and welcomed them, the Indians promptly faded into the background, and everyone lived happily ever after.
The pilgrims are glorified and mythologized because the circumstances of the first English-speaking colony in Jamestown were frankly too ugly (for example, they turned to cannibalism to survive) to hold up as an effective national myth.
The pilgrims did not find an empty land any more than Columbus “discovered” anything. Every inch of this land is Indian land. The pilgrims (who did not even call themselves pilgrims) did not come here seeking religious freedom; they already had that in Holland.
He does not let up either. It’s hard hitting. It might be difficult for some to swallow. My favorite line is ‘the pilgrims didn’t find an empty land any more than columbus “discovered” anything.’ Exactly. The Europeans just came, lusted, and conquered at the expense of the native first peoples. Including even those from Norway where my grandfather emigrated. My education regarding ‘American Indians’ came from my older brother’s experience, who was Inupiat & Caucasian, in Boise for a time and later while serving in the Navy. Then it was the crowd I hung with in Oregon right out of high school: Bobbi (Thompson Indian), and Sandy & Donna (actual Hawaiians, Maui). Yeah, I’m sure we had some amazing discussions because I remember the topic of many was often about ‘white society.’ I’m certain their experiences shaped my thinking but nothing so powerfully as that of my own brother.
And today I’ve been thinking about how to change this holiday – how to change my ‘celebration’ what little I celebrate of it. In stumbling around, reading, looking for some kind of an answer, pondering, I ran across this video of the Obamas yesterday. They had been at St. Columbanus church on Chicago’s South Side helping hand out food. It may help provide a piece to putting the puzzle together.