Thanksgiving has never been a celebratory holiday in my family. Whenever my family did cook we always gave thanks that all the Native Americans weren’t wiped out when Columbus “discovered” America. I never understood why my family was so against Thanksgiving. In school we drew turkeys with our hands and it was a happy time. It meant a couple of days off from school. My teachers made it seem like Thanksgiving was a holiday to look forward to. The New York City public education system told me what Thanksgiving was all about. I was very careful to regurgitate what they taught me when tested so I wouldn’t get a failing grade. When I was older though I was told the truth by my family.
My great, great, great, great grandfather was a part of a band of Black Indians in Florida, hence my unique and Native American-sounding last name. It seems I come from a long line of warriors and activists. I am a revolutionary not by choice but by lineage. When I did finally learn, there was no stopping me. Whenever someone asked what I was doing for Thanksgiving I proudly stated that I no longer celebrate it. Thanksgiving day should be known as National Land Theft and American Genocide Day.
I learned that in 1637 the body of a white man was discovered dead in a boat. Armed settlers — which we tell our children were God fearing, gentle, sharing, kind Pilgrims — invaded a Pequot village. They also set the village, which included many children, on fire. Those who were lucky enough to escape the fire were systematically sought, hunted down and killed. While many, including historians, still debate what exactly happened this day, also known as the Pequot Massacre, it directly led to the creation of “Thanksgiving Day.” This is what the governor of Bay Colony had to say days after the massacre, “A day of thanksgiving. Thanking God that they had eliminated over 700 men, women and children.”
William B. Newell, a Penobscot Indian and former chairman of the Anthropology Department at the University of Connecticut stated, “Gathered in this place of meeting, they were attacked by mercenaries and English and Dutch. The Indians were ordered from the building and as they came forth were shot down, The rest were burned alive in the building. 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.”
When I finally found out the origins of Thanksgiving it made me nauseous. Never again will I celebrate a holiday I know nothing about until I investigate its origins. I am very thankful, pun intended, that I learned about the origins of this holiday. It is a reminder that history can be rewritten and if told enough times eventually becomes the truth!
People always tell me to forget the past. I should just let it go and move on. Why do people of color always have to forget?! Would you tell a Jewish person to forget about the holocaust and just move on?! Would you tell the family of those who lost their lives on 9/11 to just forget about it?! So why are our tragedies forgettable and others are not?! I WILL NEVER forget! I will ALWAYS honor those who lost their lives unjustifiable.
So when you sit down to dinner this year, look at your family, serve the food and tell each other what you are most thankful for, think about the origins of Thanksgiving. Think about the countless Native Americans who lost their lives so you can carve a turkey and get the best deals on Black Friday. Say a prayer for them, especially the children, who died simply because of the color of their skin.