Historical events

LETTER: Thanksgiving Has Roots in Violent Historical Events | Opinion


I read Mike Buffington’s article in the Banks County News on the history of the creation of Thanksgiving Day. I also recently read a Pow Wow Nation Facebook post that featured the story of this celebration that I had never heard before and actually shocked me. I can’t find the original post, but found a similar one and added some research referring to Abraham Lincoln, who was mentioned in the original post:

The Truth Behind “Thanksgiving”. Why we decided to change the nomenclature to Gratitude Day.

In 1607, Chief Wahunsonacock (Powhatan) of the Powhatan Confederacy and his people brought fish, game and corn to the starving settlers.

This is recognized today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.

The gratitude of the new Americans, however, did not last.

The following year, 1608, John Smith ordered the Powhatans to submit to the English crown and provide the settlers with an annual tribute of corn. John Smith forcibly takes corn from the villages and Powhatan orders it to be captured.

In 1609, war broke out between the settlers of Powhatan and Virginia as they stole land, looted graves, occupied Native villages, and enslaved the Native people.

On June 5, 1637, Captain Mason attacked a Pequot village near present-day Stonington and massacred the community. After a particularly successful raid on the Pequots in what is now Stamford, Connecticut, churches are announcing a second day of “thanksgiving” to celebrate the victory. It is reported that during the feast, the severed heads of the natives are thrown into the streets like soccer balls. On July 28, a third attack and massacre occurred near present-day Fairfield and the Pequot “war” ended.

The day after the massacre, William Bradford, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, writes that from that day forward will be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots and “For the next 100 years. , every governor-ordered Thanksgiving Day was in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God the battle was won.

This event marks the first real Thanksgiving. During this period of history, the Puritans and other English settlers generally declared a day of thanksgiving to celebrate the successful massacre of native communities and to honor the “victories” ordained by God rather than to celebrate the harvests. success stories (Oxendine, 2019; Native Voices, “AD 1637: English settlers burn Pequot village”).

Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, as more and more explorers sought to colonize their land, Native Americans responded at various stages, from cooperation to outrage to revolt.

After siding with the French in many battles during the French and Indian War and ultimately being forcibly evicted from their homes under Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, Native American populations saw their size and territory. decrease at the end of the 19th century.

While President Lincoln signed the law creating an official Thanksgiving Day. But in fact, Abraham Lincoln is not considered a hero at all among many Native American tribes and indigenous peoples in the United States, as the majority of his policies have proven to be detrimental to them.

For example, the Homestead Act and the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 helped precipitate the construction of the transcontinental railway, resulting in a significant loss of land and natural resources, as well as the loss of way of life and culture. , for many indigenous peoples. Additionally, rampant corruption within the Indian Bureau, the precursor to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, continued unabated throughout Lincoln’s tenure and beyond. In many cases, government-appointed Indian agents outright stole resources that were supposed to go to tribes.

In other cases, the Lincoln administration simply continued to implement discriminatory and damaging policies, such as placing Indians on reservations. Beginning in 1863, the Lincoln administration oversaw the withdrawal of the Navajo and Apache Mescalero from New Mexico territory, forcing the Navajo to travel 450 miles to Bosque Redondo, a brutal journey. Ultimately, more than 2,000 died before a treaty was signed.

Several massacres of Indians also took place under Lincoln’s watch. For example, the Dakota War in Minnesota in 1862 led to the hanging of thirty-eight Indian men – 303 Indian men were sentenced to hang, but the rest were spared Lincoln’s forgiveness.

So while this is a short summary, this Thanksgiving Day in history is riddled with genocide and marginalization of our Indigenous peoples, which continued throughout the 19th century.