“In a little more than one hour, five or six hundred of these barbarians
were dismissed from a world that was burdened with them.”
“It may be demanded…Should not Christians have more mercy and
compassion? But…sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents…. We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings.”
-Puritan divine Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana
Frank James, a Wampanoag tribal member, would have given a speech in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1970; however, the ones in charge of the Thanksgiving ceremony at Plymouth Rock denied Frank James from ever uttering it. I learned about this in The Thanksgiving Day Massacre…Or, would you like Turkey with your genocide?
The timeline itself along with basic knowledge of the Pilgrim’s religious beliefs exposes the fact that historically speaking, Thanksgiving was literally about gratitude for genocide. Furthermore, the low population counts of the Pequot in more recent years points to how the devastating effects of the English’s, or Separatists’, or Pilgrims’, or Puritans’ crime of genocide almost destroyed the Pequot population. The English, who no doubt formed an American Colony in New England, claimed the land as theirs by the Doctrine of Discovery, which is still in effect today as federal law. To be accurate, the word genocide was not created until 1944 by Raphael Lemkin;nonetheless, the word genocide is appropriate when discussing the near extermination of the Pequot. To be clear, the Doctrine of Discovery legally applied to the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in New England, but not to the Pilgrims in New Plymouth. What was the difference?
No Doctrine of Discovery –
Thus it became necessary for the Pilgrims to enter into a mutual assistance pact with the Wampanoags. To the pilgrims, this became their “deed of cession,” authorizing them to seize unspecified acreage.
– or, Doctrine of Discovery,
The Doctrine of Discovery provided that by law and divine intention European Christian countries gained power and legal rights over indigenous non-Christian peoples immediately upon their “discovery” by Europeans. Various European monarchs and their legal systems developed this principle to benefit their own countries. The Discovery Doctrine was then adopted into American colonial and state law and into the United States Constitution, and was then adopted by the federal legislative and executive branches, and finally by the U.S. Supreme Court in Johnson v. M’Intosh in 1823. Johnson is still federal law today and the Doctrine of Discovery is still being applied to Indian individuals and the American Indian Nations notwithstanding its Eurocentric, religious, and racial underpinnings.
It was all the same in both of their usages. There was no difference.
…to find, discover and investigate whatsoever islands, countries, regions or provinces of heathens and infidels, in whatsoever part of the world placed, which before this time were unknown to all Christians…
And that the before-mentioned John and his sons or their heirs and deputies may conquer, occupy and possess whatsoever such towns, castles, cities and islands by them thus discovered that they may be able to conquer, occupy and possess, as our vassals and governors lieutenants and deputies therein, acquiring for us the dominion, title and jurisdiction of the same towns, castles, cities, islands and mainlands so discovered;…
However, Roger Williams tried to “make a difference;” in good conscience he stated:
“We have not our land by patent from the King, but that the natives are the true owners of it, and that we ought to repent of such receiving it by patent…” For his radical ideas Williams was expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635.”
Now that all that is stated, let us go to the specifics of the timeline.
First, the Pilgrims landed in Wampanoag controlled land in 1620.
Norton, Katzman, Escott, Chudacoff, Paterson, Tuttle. “A People & A Nation.” Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 52-53.
The Pokanokets (also called Wampanoags) controlled the area in which the Pilgrims settled, yet their villages had suffered terrible losses in the epidemic of 1616 – 1618. To protect themselves from the powerful Narragansetts of the southern New England coast (who had been spared the ravages of the disease), the Pokanokets decided to ally themselves with the newcomers. In the spring of 1621, their leader, Massasoit, signed a treaty with the Pilgrims, and during the colony’s first difficult years the Pokanokets supplied the English with essential foodstuffs.
Yet, where were they beforehand and why did they set sail?
Norton, Katzman, Escott, Chudacoff, Paterson, Tuttle. “A People & A Nation.” Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 52-53.
Separatists were the first to move to New England. In 1609 a group of Separatists migrated to Holland, where they found the freedom of worship denied them in Stuart England. But they were nevertheless troubled by the Netherlands’ too – tolerant atmosphere; the nation that tolerated them also tolerated religions and behaviors they abhorred. Hoping to isolate themselves and their children from the corrupting influence of worldly temptations, these people, who were to become known as Pilgrims, received permission from a branch of the Virginia Company to colonize the northern part of its territory.
Next, there was just one feast in 1621, not a succession of feasts. Why? There was probably only one feast, because “it became necessary for the Pilgrims to enter into a mutual assistance pact with the Wampanoags,” and these.
The fact is that to the Puritan, the Native American was the instrument of Satan. For Cotton Mather the Indians were “doleful creatures who were the veriest ruins of Mankind, who were to be everywhere on the face of the earth”; and even Roger Williams, the great friend of the Indians, said they were devil – worshippers.
…the Pilgrims never would have invited the Indians to join them. Besides, the Pilgrims would never have tolerated festivities at a true religious event. Indeed, what we think of as Thanksgiving was really a harvest festival. Actual “Thanksgivings” were religious affairs; everybody spent the day praying. Incidentally, these Pilgrim Thanksgivings occurred at different times of the year, not just in November.
Consequently, the European invasion brought a whole new level of violence to the native tribes,
…But tribal rivalries and wars were relatively infrequent prior to Puritan settlement (compared to the number of wars in Europe)…Neither would have increased if it were not that a colonizing European nation was asserting political jurisdiction, in the name of God, over indigenous New England societies…When thus threatened with the usurpation of their own rights, as native tribes had been threatened years before by them, Puritans came to the defense of a system of government that was similar, in important ways, to the native governments that they had always defined as savage and uncivilized…
and out of that heightened violence came the massacre for which Thanksgiving is named.
William B. Newell, a Penobscot Indian and former chairman of the Anthropology department at the University of Connecticut, says that the first official Thanksgiving Day celebrated the massacre of 700 Indian men, women and children during one of their religious ceremonies. “Thanksgiving Day” was first proclaimed by the Governor of the then Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637 to commemorate the massacre of 700 men, women and children who were celebrating their annual Green Corn Dance…Thanksgiving Day to the, “in their own house”, Newell stated.
– small snip –
—–The very next day the governor declared a Thanksgiving Day…..For the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a Governor was in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.”
Historically revised events of and after 1621: that the feast was of friendly intent and not a political ploy since “it became necessary for the Pilgrims to enter into a mutual assistance pact with the Wampanoags;” that there were successive feasts which involved the Indians; and that ignore the Pequot Massacre, “For the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a Governor was in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won..” all hide the truth. Adding to every one of those assertions is Frank James’ suppressed speech that he would have been spoken publicly if he had been allowed to do so in 1970.
…Even before the Pilgrims landed it was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them as slaves for 220 shillings apiece. The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans. Mourt’s Relation describes a searching party of sixteen men. Mourt goes on to say that this party took as much of the Indians’ winter provisions as they were able to carry.
Massasoit, the great Sachem of the Wampanoag, knew these facts, yet he and his People welcomed and befriended the settlers of the Plymouth Plantation. Perhaps he did this because his Tribe had been depleted by an epidemic. Or his knowledge of the harsh oncoming winter was the reason for his peaceful acceptance of these acts. This action by Massasoit was perhaps our biggest mistake. We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people.
What happened in those short 50 years? What has happened in the last 300 years? History gives us facts and there were atrocities; there were broken promises – and most of these centered around land ownership. Among ourselves we understood that there were boundaries, but never before had we had to deal with fences and stone walls. But the white man had a need to prove his worth by the amount of land that he owned. Only ten years later, when the Puritans came, they treated the Wampanoag with even less kindness in converting the souls of the so-called “savages.” Although the Puritans were harsh to members of their own society, the Indian was pressed between stone slabs and hanged as quickly as any other “witch…”
Let me wrap this all up by sharing some words by His Crazy Horse and relaying what the Maine Episcopalians are advocating.
(From a footnote to an interview with David Swallow appearing in Sacred Hoop, Winter 1998/99, 23.)
His Crazy Horse:
I salute the light within your eyes where the whole Universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I within mine, we shall be as one.
BANGOR – Maine Episcopalians passed a resolution at their annual convention Friday that calls for England to rescind a charter issued more than 500 years ago.
The resolution calls for the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Queen of England to disavow the 1496 royal charter issued to John Cabot and his sons, according to information on the Web site for the Episcopal Diocese of Maine. It passed by a vote of 175 to 135.
– snip –
“My objective is universal recognition that the doctrine is repugnant and should not be used to justify the taking of property and other rights from indigenous people,” Dieffenbacker-Krall said Sunday in a phone interview. “The more we build consensus, the closer we are to achieving the goal that universal recognition of the doctrine is wrong to justify actions by nation states.”
In my own personal experience, fully owning my past leads me to a more balanced, healthier, and more rewarding relationship with others. My hope is that if this history is owned, if cultural genocide and genocide denial are disempowered; that the lies that fuel U.S. colonialism into foreign nations in modern times might halt.
As difficult as it may be for non – Indians to realize the corruption of American Institutions, such as universities, or to recognize the hypnotic effect of propaganda and hegemony, it may be far more difficult for them to mitigate the shadow side of their own cultural histories. In this chapter a non – Indian (David Gabbard) scholar stresses how vital it is to do so nonetheless, for until a true realization occurs, the United States of America will likely continue its similar intrusions of colonialism in other parts of the world and on other people. He points out that for this realization to take place, we must recognize First Nations scholarship as a set of practices aimed at helping everyone remember themselves and that efforts to discredit that scholarship and the worldviews that it attempts to recover can keep us in a cycle of genocide that will ultimately consume us.
A lofty dream to be sure; yet, those wonderful human beings of the Christian faith are beginning just that process. They have brought tears of gratitude to my eyes and stirrings in me I cannot express for not having the words.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and may what the Maine Episcopalians are trying to do fill you with as much gratitude as it has in me.