Its is particularly exasperating and galling every time Thanksgiving Day comes around in the United States. We see the sanitized feel-good stories on television portraying deeply religious Pilgrims and friendly, smiling Indians. Movies and post cards reflecting various versions of the Thanksgiving Story bombard us as Americans gourmandize on thousands of pounds of turkey -- the culinary symbol of Thanksgiving Day. This fairy tale yarn perfected by year after year of propagandistic spin, and re-spinning, has made Americans accepting of these stories without question.
In schools across America these institutionalized myths of the First Thanksgiving are drilled into the heads and imagination of gullible and impressionable children, deliberately created and designed to obfuscate the truth and erase the brutal tragedies visited on America's Indigenous People.
The sanitized, fictitious Thanksgiving version goes like this:
1. Pilgrims came to America, in order to escape religious persecution in England.
2. Living conditions were very difficult in the so-called New World, but thanks to a friendly Indian, Squanto, the Pilgrims learned to grow corn, and survive in America.
3. The Indians and the Pilgrims became good friends. To celebrate their friendship and abundant harvest, Indians in feathered headbands joined with the Pilgrims and shared in a friendly feast of turkey and togetherness. That was the First Thanksgiving.
Here's the false takeaways from the above narrative and story:
1. The Pilgrims innocently settled the so-called New World.
2. As a "persecuted people," they arrived in America with pure hearts, honest principles and altruistic intentions.
3. Indians and pilgrims were great friends, and this friendship created the foundation and framework for this "great American nation."
This revisionist and clean narrative has been egregiously whitewashed and Eurocentric on many counts. Moreover, it is a bold-faced and humungous lie. This often regurgitated lie was packaged solely for nationalistic consumption when, at the end of the bloody Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Back then; a badly divided America was desperately in need of unity and inspiration. Hence, the myth of the First Thanksgiving was born to inspire and unite.
So what's the real Thanksgiving Story? Let me posit another version:
One day, the Wampanoag people of the Eastern coast of the Americas noticed unfamiliar people on their land. These strange people with pale skins were English pilgrims, coming to a new land that they called "America," in order to settle and create a new life.
At first, the Wampanoag Indians were uneasy and suspicious of the settlers. However, they eventually developed in a shaky relationship based on commerce and exchange. Also, in observing that the pilgrims nearly died from a harsh winter, the Wampanoag stepped in to help.
The Wampanoag chief, Massasoit, subsequently entered into agreements with the pilgrims to peacefully coexist. At one time, the Wampanoag and pilgrims shared in a meal of wildfowl, deer, and shellfish. After Massasoit's death, the Wampanoag nation became weak. This was as a result of alien diseases contracted from the English settlers. And it wasn't long before the pilgrims began tormenting surrounding tribes, burning entire villages to the ground, while indigenous men, women, and children lay sleeping.
Alarmed and angry over growing cruelty, greed, and arrogance of the new "white people" in their homelands, the Wampanoag began to distrust the pilgrims. The pilgrims then demanded that the Wampanoag submit to their "Christian rule," and give up all their weapons. Shortly after, the pilgrims and Wampanoag were at war, and in the end, the pilgrims were victorious.