Dark past lingers behind Thanksgiving holiday

By: Carolyn Conte | Student Columnist 

The smell of apple pie, the colors of autumn and the hugs of loved ones warm our memories of Thanksgiving. The holiday should be appreciated for its sincerity compared to other holidays which are usually weighed with the pressure to buy presents be it Halloween candy, Christmas gifts or Valentine’s chocolate.

However, there is a stain on the truth of Thanksgiving that should be remembered in light of November being Native American Heritage Month.

In 1637 Connecticut, over 700 members of the Pequot Tribe met to celebrate their annual Green Corn Festival our modern Thanksgiving. While the Pequot were still sleeping, English and Dutch men arrived. The settlers shot and clubbed the Pequot men to death, then burned the houses full of women and children.

This massacre was rejoiced by the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who signed the day into law as a day of thanks according to the proclamation of John Winthrop.

The survivors were “shipped to the West Indies as slaves,” according to the Weyanoke Association, and sold for “forty pounds sterling for the scalp of an Indian man, twenty for the scalps of women and children. The name ‘Pequot’ was officially erased from the map. The Pequot River became the Thames and their town became New London.”

Yes, there was one feast between pilgrims and Native Americans in 1621. We choose to remember the one day pilgrims joined Native Americans for a meal. The holiday was nationally established in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln asked Americans in a speech to observe a day of thanks for the country’s “deliverances and blessings” in spite of the Civil War. However, these events are just as much a part of the real history as the massacre of 1637.

I am not delusionally idealistic. The U.S. will never get rid of the holiday thanks to national pride and Black Friday sales, regardless of its genocidal origins.

However, I do ask that readers acknowledge the history and wrongdoings of our country.

While most of the country realizes the atrocities the U.S. government has committed against Native Americans, we still manage to sweep them away from our thoughts like swatting away a bothersome fly. Americans never forget 9/11 or the Holocaust of World War II, yet we all too happily ignore our own crimes against humanity.

Instead, the U.S. must honor the memory of the Pequot if we strive to be a moral country. Perhaps we can be more inclusive during the season by dedicating time to learning about the native tribes, volunteering at reservations, or promoting native artists. According to the History Channel, Native Americans only make up 1.5 percent of their homeland’s population now.

They deserve – at the very least – a nod this Thanksgiving.

 

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