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November 27, 2014

The Thanksgiving Farce and What We Can Do About It

By Meryl Ann Butler

The actual Thanksgiving story goes something like this: illegal immigrants came to this country, pretended to be friendly to the inhabitants as long as it served their purposes, then killed, mutilated and subjugated the original citizens. We cannot change the past, but we can change the effect it has on the future. This Thanksgiving, perhaps it's time to set intentions for actions we can be thankful for in the future.

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The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth. Jennie Augusta Brownscombe (detail)
The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth. Jennie Augusta Brownscombe (detail)
(Image by Public Domain)
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In spite of the bucolic images we were offered in grade school, the actual Thanksgiving story goes something like this: illegal immigrants came to this country, pretended to be friendly to the inhabitants as long as it served their purposes, then killed, mutilated and subjugated the original citizens of this land.

Then these new immigrants created a charming little Thanksgiving myth designed to purge their sins, and they made the day a national holiday and celebrated it annually. Eventually that myth became the truth that new generations believed.
Is it any wonder that the descendants of these murderous invaders, who now consider themselves the true owners of this land, are exhibiting fears that contemporary "illegal immigrants" might do the same thing to them?

The deepest understanding of the truth of what one's ancestors perpetrated is passed down through the generations. Whether the sins of the fathers are passed down "to the third and the fourth generations" in the way that the Bible indicates, or whether the guilt for these sins remains within our genetic material or is buried in the subconscious, these deep levels of the psyche remember the horrors which were perpetrated. And, in the dark recesses of our souls, we also understand that the pendulum always swings back.


The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth. Jennie Augusta Brownscombe,1914
The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth. Jennie Augusta Brownscombe,1914
(Image by Public Domain)
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This nebulous but nagging guilt gives rise to "unfounded" fears that modern day Mexican/other immigrants are here to kill all American citizens. These fears have no real relationship to today's immigrants--they rise from our own collective guilt for exterminating the previous citizens of this land. Recognizing the source of these fears is the first step toward change. Educating oneself is the second.

An excerpt from a blog postby Dennis W. Zotigh who is a Kiowa/San Juan Pueblo/Santee Dakota Indian, member of the Kiowa Gourd Clan and San Juan Pueblo Winter Clan and a descendant of principal Kiowa war chiefs Sitting Bear and No Retreat, offers some insight. Zotigh is also cultural specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.



What really happened at the first Thanksgiving in 1621? The Pilgrims did not introduce the concept of thanksgiving; the New England tribes already had autumn harvest feasts of thanksgiving. To the original people of this continent, each day is a day of thanksgiving to the Creator.

In the fall of 1621, William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth Colony, decided to have a Plymouth harvest feast of thanksgiving and invited Massasoit, the Grand Sachem of the Wampanoag Federation, to join the Pilgrims. Massasoit came with approximately 90 warriors and brought food to add to the feast, including venison, lobster, fish, wild fowl, clams, oysters, eel, corn, squash and maple syrup. Massasoit and the ninety warriors stayed in Plymouth for three days...

Squanto died in 1622, but Massasoit outlived the era of relative peace in colonial New England. On May 26, 1637, near the present-day Mystic River in Connecticut, while their warriors were away, an estimated 400 to 700 Pequot women, children, and old men were massacred and burned by combined forces of the Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, and Saybrook (Connecticut) colonies and Narragansett and Mohegan allies. Colonial authorities found justification to kill most of the Pequot men and enslave the captured women and their children. Pequot slaves were sent to Bermuda and the West Indies.

In 1975 the official number of Pequot people living in Connecticut was 21.

Similar declines in Native population took place throughout New England as an estimated three hundred thousand Indians died by violence, and even more were displaced, in New England over the next few decades.

Looking at this history raises a question: Why should Native peoples celebrate Thanksgiving? Many Natives particularly in the New England area remember this attempted genocide as a factual part of their history and are reminded each year during the modern Thanksgiving. The United American Indians of New England meet each year at Plymouth Rock on Cole's Hill for a Day of Mourning. They gather at the feet of a statue of Grand Sachem Massasoit of the Wampanoag to remember and reflect in the hope that America will never forget.

We cannot change the past, but we can change the effect it has on the future. On this Thanksgiving--while there is much to be grateful for--perhaps it's time to practice a "pay-it-forward" form of thanks, and set some intentions for actions that can help soothe the wounds of the past and become what we can be thankful for in the future.

The best ways to change this come from within each individual: first, educating outselves, and then taking ethical action. The comment section of Zotigh's blogand the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. are two good place to start, and Thanksgiving Day is a good day to begin.

Bringing healing to this part of the American story is win-win: it is not only the victimized who need healing, but also the perpetrators.



Submitters Website: http://www.OceanViewArts.com

Submitters Bio:

Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, 2013. In June, 2015, the combined views on her articles, diaries and quick link contributions topped one million. She was particularly happy that her article about Bree Newsome removing the Confederate flag was the one that put her past the million mark.

Her art in a wide variety of media can be seen on her YouTube video, "Visionary Artist Meryl Ann Butler on Creativity and Joy" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcGs2r_66QE

A NYC native, her response to 9-11 was to pen an invitation to healing through creativity, entitled, "90-Minute Quilts: 15+ Projects You Can Stitch in an Afternoon" (Krause 2006), which is a bestseller in the craft field. The sequel, MORE 90-Minute Quilts: 20+ Quick and Easy Projects With Triangles and Squares was released in April, 2011. Her popular video, How to Stitch a Quilt in 90 Minutes with Meryl Ann Butler can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrShGOQaJQ8

She has been active in a number of international, arts-related projects as a citizen diplomat, and was arts advisor to Baltimore's CIUSSR (Center for Improving US-Soviet Relations), 1987-89. She made two trips to the former USSR in 1987 and 1988 to speak to artists, craftpeople and fashion designers on the topic of utilizing the arts as a tool for global wellbeing. She created the historical "First US-Soviet Children's Peace Quilt Exchange Project" in 1987-88, which was the first time a reciprocal quilt was given to the US from the former USSR.

Her artwork is in collections across the globe.

Meryl Ann is a founding member of The Labyrinth Society and has been building labyrinths since 1992. She publishes an annual article about the topic on OpEdNews on World Labyrinth Day, the first Saturday in May.

Find out more about Meryl Ann's artistic life in "OEN Managing Ed, Meryl Ann Butler, Featured on the Other Side of the Byline" at https://www.opednews.com/Quicklink/OEN-Managing-Ed-Meryl-Ann-in-Life_Arts-Artistic_Artists_Quilt-170917-615.html

On Feb 11, 2017, Senior Editor Joan Brunwasser interviewed Meryl Ann in Pink Power: Sister March, Norfolk, VA at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Pink-Power-Sister-March--by-Joan-Brunwasser-Pussy-Hats-170212-681.html

"Creativity and Healing: The Work of Meryl Ann Butler" by Burl Hall is at
http://www.opednews.com/articles/Creativity-and-Healing--T-by-Burl-Hall-130414-18.html

Burl and Merry Hall interviewed Meryl Ann on their BlogTalk radio show, "Envision This," at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/envision-this/2013/04/11/meryl-ann-butler-art-as-a-medicine-for-the-soul

Archived articles www.opednews.com/author/author1820.html
Older archived articles, from before May 2005 are here.


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