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Wednesday, 26 November 2014 08:46

The Myth of Thanksgiving Cannot Erase the Theft of Native American Land Through Decimation

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amyththanksPuncturing the myth of Thanksgiving (Photo: Mr. Tin DC)

Many progressives face a quandary of mixed emotions on Thanksgiving. Although the day mythologizes a peaceful banquet celebrated by Native Americans and pilgrims together, whatever fellowship there might have been was short lived. The European decimation of the indigenous population was soon to begin, as conquering settlers - primarily from Britain (after all, the Eastern seaboard eventually became an English colony) - claimed land on the basis of "the doctrine of discovery." 

Native Americans were deemed disposable people and were nearly annihilated.

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Thanksgiving then, as a national holiday (if one sets aside its gross commercialization and association with corporate professional and exploitative college football), is a way of “turkey-washing” the theft of the vast expanse of land that became the current United States from the indigenous population that was here first. If property rights are enshrined in US law to the extent that you can kill someone for trespassing, then the deadly violation of the ownership of land by Native Americans was, on the basis of that doctrine, a genocidal crime.

In a recent Truthout interview with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, who wrote An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, she stated:

As the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Our nation was born in genocide.  . . . We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode." 

It is worth noting that after the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11, President George W. Bush invoked the term Crusade as a battle cry for attacking Muslim states. Even as defiant and unrepentant as the neocons were around Bush, they realized that the evocation of a word that historically represented the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Muslims during the Middle Ages was not wise to use. It was quickly dropped from his speeches. The Crusades and the term evoke justified slaughter – and wouldn't that be just a tad hypocritical for a US president?

The warmth of family and friends - the connectedness we share as people - is indeed always worthy of celebration. George Washington issued a proclamation establishing the first Thanksgiving, declaring it "as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God."

However, it is a travesty to create a false narrative about the source of abundance celebrated on Thanksgiving. This land was stolen, and its inhabitants massacred. 

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