Genocide And The Thanksgiving Myth

Genocide And The Thanksgiving Myth
Columbus feeding dogs with dead native Americans

AFRICANGLOBE – Note: We are publishing this essay by S. Brian Willson describing the true history of genocide in the United States which stands in stark contrast to the myth of Thanksgiving because of its popularity with readers and its educational value.

The Defining and Enabling Experience of Our “Civilization” 

As we again celebrate what US “Americans”call Thanksgiving, let us pause for a moment of reflection. Let us recognize that accounts of the first Thanksgiving are mythological, and that the holiday is actually a grotesque celebration of our arrogant ethnocentrism built on genocide.

Native Americans in the Caribbean greeted their 1492 European invaders with warm hospitality. They were so innocent that Genoan Cristoforo Colombo wrote in his log, They willingly traded everything they owned . . . They do not bear arms . . . They would make fine servants . . . They could easily be made Christians . . . With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want. This meeting set in motion a 500+-year plunder of the Western Hemisphere, which then spread to the remainder of the globe. And it has not stopped!

Historian Hans Köning concludes that what sets the West apart is its persistence, its capacity tostop at nothing. Cultural historian Lewis Mumford declared, Wherever Western man went, slavery, land robbery, lawlessness, culture-wrecking, and the outright extermination of both wild beasts and tame men went with him.

Jump 129 years to 1621, year of the supposed “first Thanksgiving.” There is not much documentation of that event, apparently a three-day feast, but surviving Indians do not trust the myth. Natives were already dying like flies thanks to European-borne diseases. The Pequot tribe in today’s Connecticut reportedly numbered 8,000 when the Pilgrims arrived, but disease had reduced their population to 1,500 by 1637, when the first, officially proclaimed, all-Pilgrim “Thanksgiving” took place. At that feast, the whites of New England celebrated their massacre of the Pequots in the Connecticut Valley where the Mystic River meets the sea. The Indians were in fact celebrating their annual green corn dance ceremony. But it was to be their last.

Genocide And The Thanksgiving Myth
Engraving depicting the Mystic Massacre, the assault on the Pequot fort during the Pequot War. Published 1638.

William Bradford, the former Governor of Plymouth and one of the chroniclers of the supposed 1621 feast, was on hand for the unspeakable massacre of 1637. He described it thus in his History of Plymouth plantation (@1647)Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword; some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so that they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire…horrible was the stink and scent thereof, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave praise thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory.

The rest of the white folks thought so, too. This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots, read Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop’s proclamation. The authentic proclaimed Thanksgiving Day was born. Few Pequots survived.

Genocide And The Thanksgiving Myth
The slaughter of the Pequot

The English commander John Mason declared that the attack against the Pequot was the act of a God who “laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to scorn making [the Pequot] as a fiery Oven . . . Thus did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling [Mystic] with dead Bodies.” The Narragansett and Mohegan warriors with the English were horrified by the actions and “manner of the Englishmen’s fight . . . because it is too furious, and slays too many men.” The Narragansett returned home and no longer participated in the war.

Most historians believe about 700 Pequots were slaughtered at Mystic. Many prisoners were executed, and surviving women and children sold into slavery in the West Indies. Pequot prisoners that escaped execution were parceled out to Indian tribes allied with the English. The Pequot were thought to have been extinguished as a people.

But, the epitaph was premature. Enough survived such that today the Pequots own the Foxwood Casino and Hotel, in Ledyard, Connecticut, larger in size than the Pentagon, with gaming revenues in the billions.

Moving 158 years further, we discover a ruthless campaign conducted in central New York in 1779 during our “noble” Revolutionary War. The Continental Congress was furious that a majority of the Iroquois Indians (those who coined the Seventh Generation philosophy) were siding with the British against the colonialists who were rapidly settling their lands. The booming capital town of the Seneca Nation was Kanadesaga at the head of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region. In the summer of 1779, the Continental Congress instructed its Army’s commanding general to take care of the Indian problem. George Washington complied. He ordered General John Sullivan to lay waste . . . that the country . . . be . . . destroyed, instilling terror among the Iroquois Indians in central New York; General Sullivan affirmed that the Indians shall see that there is malice enough in our hearts to destroy everything that contributes to their support. Washington declared, Our future security will be in their inability to injure us…and in the terror with which the severity of the chastizement they receive will inspire them [Richard Drinnon, Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building (New York: Schocken Books, 1990), pp. 331-32].

Genocide And The Thanksgiving Myth
The slaughter ordered by future American president George Washington

General John Sullivan was selected by George Washington to deal with the tribes who had sided with the British during the Revolutionary War. This included; the Mohawks, Cayuga, Onondagas and Seneca tribes. It was named the Sullivan Campaign and General Sullivan took no mercy destroying at least 40 villages, including burning their crops and homes. This destruction lead to over 5,000 Iroquois displaced and many starved or froze to death during the winter months.

The culminating day of “victory” was September 7, 1779. Total destruction of Kanadesaga and the forty other Seneca towns was accomplished by 4,500 troops, nearly one-third of the entire force of the Continental Army. The only major military campaign of that year, it was one of the most vicious scorched-earth campaigns in history. All orchards and food crops were destroyed, all buildings were looted, then burned. Many of the escaping Senecas were scalped and butchered: After the battle . . . Indian warriors . . . were scalped; Lieutenant William Barton amused himself by skinning two Indians from the hips down to make two pairs of leggings, one pair for himself, the other a present for his major [Morris Bishop, “The end of the Iroquois,” American Heritage, October 1969, p. 78].