portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts united states

human & civil rights | imperialism & war

The Real Thanksgiving

To see them frying in the fire, and the streams of their blood quenching the same, and the stench was horrible; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave praise thereof to God. This event marked the first actual Thanksgiving

The words on the monument speak for themselves
Treachery Commemorated

Much of America's understanding of the early relationship between the Indian and the European is conveyed through the story of Thanksgiving. Proclaimed a holiday in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, this fairy tale of a feast was allowed to exist in the American imagination pretty much untouched until 1970, the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. That is when Frank B. James, president of the Federated Eastern Indian League, prepared a speech for a Plymouth banquet that exposed the Pilgrims for having committed, among other crimes, the robbery of the graves of the Wampanoags. He wrote:

"We welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people."

But white Massachusetts officials told him he could not deliver such a speech and offered to write him another. Instead, James declined to speak, and on Thanksgiving Day hundreds of Indians from around the country came to protest. It was the first National Day of Mourning, a day to mark the losses Native Americans suffered as the early settlers prospered. This true story of "Thanksgiving" is what whites did not want Mr. James to tell.

What Really Happened in Plymouth in 1621?

According to a single-paragraph account in the writings of one Pilgrim, a harvest feast did take place in Plymouth in 1621, probably in mid-October, but the Indians who attended were not even invited. Though it later became known as "Thanksgiving," the Pilgrims never called it that. And amidst the imagery of a picnic of interracial harmony is some of the most terrifying bloodshed in New World history.

The Pilgrim crop had failed miserably that year, but the agricultural expertise of the Indians had produced twenty acres of corn, without which the Pilgrims would have surely perished. The Indians often brought food to the Pilgrims, who came from England ridiculously unprepared to survive and hence relied almost exclusively on handouts from the overly generous Indians-thus making the Pilgrims the western hemisphere's first class of welfare recipients. The Pilgrims invited the Indian sachem Massasoit to their feast, and it was Massasoit, engaging in the tribal tradition of equal sharing, who then invited ninety or more of his Indian brothers and sisters-to the annoyance of the 50 or so ungrateful Europeans. No turkey, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie was served; they likely ate duck or geese and the venison from the 5 deer brought by Massasoit. In fact, most, if notall, of the food was most likely brought and prepared by the Indians, whose 10,000-year familiarity with the cuisine of the region had kept the whites alive up to that point.

The Pilgrims wore no black hats or buckled shoes-these were the silly inventions of artists hundreds of years since that time. These lower-class Englishmen wore brightly colored clothing, with one of their church leaders recording among his possessions "1 paire of greene drawers." Contrary to the fabricated lore of storytellers generations since, no Pilgrims prayed at the meal, and the supposed good cheer and fellowship must have dissipated quickly once the Pilgrims brandished their weaponry in a primitive display of intimidation. What's more, the Pilgrims consumed a good deal of home brew. In fact, each Pilgrim drank at least a half gallon of beer a day, which they preferred even to water. This daily inebriation led their governor, William Bradford, to comment on his people's "notorious sin," which included their "drunkenness and uncleanliness" and rampant "sodomy"...

The Pilgrims of Plymouth, The Original Scalpers

Contrary to popular mythology the Pilgrims were no friends to the local Indians. They were engaged in a ruthless war of extermination against their hosts, even as they falsely posed as friends. Just days before the alleged Thanksgiving love-fest, a company of Pilgrims led by Myles Standish actively sought to chop off the head of a local chief. They deliberately caused a rivalry between two friendly Indians, pitting one against the other in an attempt to obtain "better intelligence and make them both more diligent." An 11-foot-high wall was erected around the entire settlement for the purpose of keeping the Indians out.

Any Indian who came within the vicinity of the Pilgrim settlement was subject to robbery, enslavement, or even murder. The Pilgrims further advertised their evil intentions and white racial hostility, when they mounted five cannons on a hill around their settlement, constructed a platform for artillery, and then organized their soldiers into four companies-all in preparation for the military destruction of their friends the Indians.

Pilgrim Myles Standish eventually got his bloody prize. He went to the Indians, pretended to be a trader, then beheaded an Indian man named Wituwamat. He brought the head to Plymouth, where it was displayed on a wooden spike for many years, according to Gary B. Nash, "as a symbol of white power." Standish had the Indian man's young brother hanged from the rafters for good measure. From that time on, the whites were known to the Indians of Massachusetts by the name "Wotowquenange," which in their tongue meant cutthroats and stabbers.

Who Were the "Savages"?

The myth of the fierce, ruthless Indian savage lusting after the blood of innocent Europeans must be vigorously dispelled at this point. In actuality, the historical record shows that the very opposite was true.

Once the European settlements stabilized, the whites turned on their hosts in a brutal way. The once amicable relationship was breeched again and again by the whites, who lusted over the riches of Indian land. A combination of the Pilgrims' demonization of the Indians, the concocted mythology of Eurocentric historians, and standard Hollywood propaganda has served to paint the gentle Indian as a tomahawk-swinging savage endlessly on the warpath, lusting for the blood of the God-fearing whites.

But the Pilgrims' own testimony obliterates that fallacy. The Indians engaged each other in military contests from time to time, but the causes of "war," the methods, and the resulting damage differed profoundly from the European variety:

o Indian "wars" were largely symbolic and were about honor, not about territory or extermination.

o "Wars" were fought as domestic correction for a specific act and were ended when correction was achieved. Such action might better be described as internal policing. The conquest or destruction of whole territories was a European concept.

o Indian "wars" were often engaged in by family groups, not by whole tribal groups, and would involve only the family members.

o A lengthy negotiation was engaged in between the aggrieved parties before escalation to physical confrontation would be sanctioned. Surprise attacks were unknown to the Indians.

o It was regarded as evidence of bravery for a man to go into "battle" carrying no weapon that would do any harm at a distance-not even bows and arrows. The bravest act in war in some Indian cultures was to touch their adversary and escape before he could do physical harm.

o The targeting of non-combatants like women, children, and the elderly was never contemplated. Indians expressed shock and repugnance when the Europeans told, and then showed, them that they considered women and children fair game in their style of warfare.

o A major Indian "war" might end with less than a dozen casualties on both sides. Often, when the arrows had been expended the "war" would be halted. The European practice of wiping out whole nations in bloody massacres was incomprehensible to the Indian.

According to one scholar, "The most notable feature of Indian warfare was its relative innocuity." European observers of Indian wars often expressed surprise at how little harm they actually inflicted. "Their wars are far less bloody and devouring than the cruel wars of Europe," commented settler Roger Williams in 1643. Even Puritan warmonger and professional soldier Capt. John Mason scoffed at Indian warfare: "[Their] feeble manner...did hardly deserve the name of fighting." Fellow warmonger John Underhill spoke of the Narragansetts, after having spent a day "burning and spoiling" their country: "no Indians would come near us, but run from us, as the deer from the dogs." He concluded that the Indians might fight seven years and not kill seven men. Their fighting style, he wrote, "is more for pastime, than to conquer and subdue enemies."

All this describes a people for whom war is a deeply regrettable last resort. An agrarian people, the American Indians had devised a civilization that provided dozens of options all designed to avoid conflict--the very opposite of Europeans, for whom all-out war, a ferocious bloodlust, and systematic genocide are their apparent life force. Thomas Jefferson--who himself advocated the physical extermination of the American Indian--said of Europe, "They [Europeans] are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of labor, property and lives of their people."

Puritan Holocaust

By the mid 1630s, a new group of 700 even holier Europeans calling themselves Puritans had arrived on 11 ships and settled in Boston-which only served to accelerate the brutality against the Indians.

In one incident around 1637, a force of whites trapped some seven hundred Pequot Indians, mostly women, children, and the elderly, near the mouth of the Mystic River. Englishman John Mason attacked the Indian camp with "fire, sword, blunderbuss, and tomahawk." Only a handful escaped and few prisoners were taken-to the apparent delight of the Europeans:

To see them frying in the fire, and the streams of their blood quenching the same, and the stench was horrible; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave praise thereof to God.

This event marked the first actual Thanksgiving. In just 10 years 12,000 whites had invaded New England, and as their numbers grew they pressed for all-out extermination of the Indian. Euro-diseases had reduced the population of the Massachusett nation from over 24,000 to less than 750; meanwhile, the number of European settlers in Massachusetts rose to more than 20,000 by 1646.

By 1675, the Massachusetts Englishmen were in a full-scale war with the great Indian chief of the Wampanoags, Metacomet. Renamed "King Philip" by the white man, Metacomet watched the steady erosion of the lifestyle and culture of his people as European-imposed laws and values engulfed them.

In 1671, the white man had ordered Metacomet to come to Plymouth to enforce upon him a new treaty, which included the humiliating rule that he could no longer sell his own land without prior approval from whites. They also demanded that he turn in his community's firearms. Marked for extermination by the merciless power of a distant king and his ruthless subjects, Metacomet retaliated in 1675 with raids on several isolated frontier towns. Eventually, the Indians attacked 52 of the 90 New England towns, destroying 13 of them. The Englishmen ultimately regrouped, and after much bloodletting defeated the great Indian nation, just half a century after their arrival on Massachusetts soil. Historian Douglas Edward Leach describes the bitter end:

The ruthless executions, the cruel sentences...were all aimed at the same goal-unchallengeable white supremacy in southern New England. That the program succeeded is convincingly demonstrated by the almost complete docility of the local native ever since.

When Captain Benjamin Church tracked down and murdered Metacomet in 1676, his body was quartered and parts were "left for the wolves." The great Indian chief's hands were cut off and sent to Boston and his head went to Plymouth, where it was set upon a pole on the real first "day of public Thanksgiving for the beginning of revenge upon the enemy." Metacomet's nine-year-old son was destined for execution because, the whites reasoned, the offspring of the devil must pay for the sins of their father. The child was instead shipped to the Caribbean to spend his life in slavery.

As the Holocaust continued, several official Thanksgiving Days were proclaimed. Governor Joseph Dudley declared in 1704 a "General Thanksgiving"-not in celebration of the brotherhood of man-but for [God's] infinite Goodness to extend His Favors...In defeating and disappointing... the Expeditions of the Enemy [Indians] against us, And the good Success given us against them, by delivering so many of them into our hands...

Just two years later one could reap a ££50 reward in Massachusetts for the scalp of an Indian-demonstrating that the practice of scalping was a European tradition. According to one scholar, "Hunting redskins became...a popular sport in New England, especially since prisoners were worth good money..."

References in The Hidden History of Massachusetts: A Guide for Black Folks İİ DR. TINGBA APIDTA, ; ISBN 0-9714462-0-2

For purchase details Email A. Muhammad " mghemlf@att.net"


During March 1623 Myles Standish lured two Chiefs to a meeting then murdered them. The picture of the monument the Weymouth Historical Commission erected depicts how the town of Weymouth, Mass, takes pride in his barbaric deed.

What Hellish Pride and Prejudice

What in hell is a hearth built on blood of a brother's harvest you absconded, along with a curve of land kissed by ocean for first people given this fine land, who were sickened on your flu-filled flannel gifts until they were too weak to wise on to your malicious plans?

You merchant-adventurers of Weymouth, mount your monument of treason against corn-fed Wessagusset, as you celebrate 300 years of your encroachment on eternity's placement of a people who had heroes like Pecksuot who, even thirty years ago, still, is said, tucked a child into her covers at Bricknell house so she did not have to see your scurrilous skirmishes.

You promote your pestilent importance on this land, as if you thought you would be allowed to stay forever. You hold a fatal flaw in this grasp to make it seem you made something worthy.

What is worthier than Wampanoag in first light, who had their blood spilled by you, on the very ground you grind against?

Listen, they speak, and trace truthful steps through and around this place you think you own: Such pride and prejudice in this piece of cement that will not outlast us, the true people of the East, or sun that burns red on mornings it remembers.

Carol Desjarlais


Explanation 23.Nov.2007 01:58


It seems to me that what we are reading here requires a deeper analysis than simply 'reverse racism' (white people are evil).

The first thing to consider is the rise of capitalism, beginning around the time of Elizabeth the first in England. The rise of capitalism was spurred by the beginnings of the rise of science and technology, which rendered the previous forms of patriarchy, such as feudalism, obsolete, since capitalist (industrial) development requires the setting aside of large pools of capital. Since society was organized along the lines of hierarchy and patriarchy naturally this meant that alpha males would appear in the new form of the wealthy capitalist, who alone would decide upon the disposal and creation of these required large pools of capital.

In order to provide an ideological justification for this development the ideology of competition was employed, so that the winners could be justified by the fact that they had won the competition, and thus had proved their worth and were therefore justified in taking full command of the economic decisions of the larger community, who had no more say under this system than their ancestors did under previous forms of patriarchy such as the slavery characteristic of Roman and Greek and earlier empires (such slavery was required to generate 'wealth' since no one person could work as hard as one hundred people and thus reap the rewards of their own labor, but rather they would require one hundred slaves to achieve this result).

It is the fact that capitalism is competitive, and therefore a low level of violence and conflict is ever present in any capitalist culture, that then explains the war mongering of white Europeans. It has nothing to do with the fact that they were white, which is a reverse racist explanation, but rather it is explained by the fact that their culture was capitalist. Under this system, everyone sinks to the lowest common denominator, the level of the greediest pig in the society. So then, if a greedy pig conquers a vulnerable territory, and creates an imperialist colony, thus lowering the input costs for raw materials, this then creates a stampede, and soon enough 'white European nations' had attacked and conquered the entire world, thus leading to the creation of what we refer to today as the impoverished 'third world'. The alternative to not joining the stampede and remaining competitive with the worst pigs on the planet would be bankruptcy. We see the same principle at work today in the stampede to move American jobs, as one example, to China, since it is required that everyone compete with everyone else.

All of the notorious European wars were capitalist competitions. England did not rise to world domination (having conquered and colonized fully one quarter of the planet at the height of British Empire) by accident, but as the result of a policy begun during the time of Elizabeth the first, whereby England would tolerate no rival power to rise on the European continent to possibly challenge Englands rise to supremacy, but rather England would be found fomenting conflicts and intervening on the continent to crush any possible rival (examples include the sinking of the Spanish fleet by Nelson or Wellington's defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, and so on). The first and the second World Wars were violent feuds over colonies, in that both Germany and Japan had no imperialist colonies, and the solution for Germany was to attack a tough and larger country such as Russia, since no easier targets were left, while Japan at first attempted to conquer another large and difficult target, China, and then bombed Pearl Harbor to eliminate the American fleet, after which Japan robbed European countries such as the Dutch and the French and the British of their Asian colonies, while taking away the Philippines which was at that time a colony which had been invaded by Washington at the beginning of the twentieth century.

It is also important to note that life in a capitalist society forms the thoughts and minds of those who live under this system, since everyone is at competition with each other under a system of dog eat dog which encourages such things as hoarding, isolation, atomization of individuals, and an attitude of perpetual conflict, where everyone is a competitor who must be fought. You can also see this in the form of 'social activism' that occurs in a capitalist system, where you will see more of the same psychology of competition, with some obvious examples being the forest defenders who are in conflict with the loggers in a struggle in which there will be winners and losers, since everything in capitalism is based upon competition, victory, defeat. Even the Spotted Owl must be viewed as a competitor for resources, to be victoriously saved or ruinously defeated, depending on which faction in the ongoing capitalist conflict between the forest protesters and the loggers emerges victorious in the competition.

So then the root causes of these behavior patterns are not 'whiteness' (a reverse racist explanation) but rather are found in the particular culture of Europe, which is a capitalist culture, with hostile takeovers and grabbing market share being the norm, and warfare only representing an escalation of the constant underlying level of violence that always permeates such a factional and feuding society even at the best of times, since pitting each other at the throat of everyone else in society and the world in general is the very essence of capitalism, and these ideas are inculcated into the heads of people right from birth so that they hardly know that they have been socially conditioned by a system but rather come to think of their lifestyle as being a product of some sort of 'natural law'.

A second factor to consider is the influence of religion. According to the Bible, it states, 'drive out all of the natives of the land. You shall take possession of their land and send in settlers. Divide it up among your clans...Put the natives to the slaughter without giving any quarter and burn their town down...Kill all the natives of the land. You must not leave a single one alive...God gave into their hands the natives of the land to be treated just as they pleased..."

This is an incomplete list of the racist and imperialist passages in the Bible which command the Bible believing God fearing people to practice conquest and imperialist expansion, clearing the way forward through the techniques of ethnic cleansing and genocide. The Bible was produced during the period of rivalrous empire building in the ancient world, which was the product of the rise of patriarchy, which required wealth to maintain an artificial alpha male status (patriarchy is a sexual system whereby aging males can artificially make themselves 'sexually attractive' by hoarding wealth while at the same time pushing the rest of the society into a needy position, thus ensuring that there will be a steady supply of young lovers for even the most ancient alpha male, provided that the artificially created alpha male is 'rich'). To facilitate becoming 'rich' required the conquest of first the immediate society, with the conflicts then spreading to entire regions before finally engulfing the entire planet when technology finally made this possible in the latter half of the previous millenium.

The point to be made here is that attempting to explain such complex social phenomena by means of resorting to a simplification such as 'white racism' is inadequate and the answers are found in understanding the impact of the economic arrangement of the offending society (capitalism, and its psychological and social effects on individuals) as well as a religion which was designed to facilitate systems of dominance and imperialism.

"Whites" had only legal title 23.Nov.2007 11:13


That was the best thanksgiving explanation I have ever heard, the research you did was incredible.

"Whiteness," not as the color of ones skin but of a different context, one of a legally binding race, blessed by god to institute manifest destiny over the land and everything wild, is equally important in the above essay. Those of irish, scottish, itallian, and other white peoples were not given status of whitenesss until the fear of insurection from these white non-whites, blacks, and indians gave way to an expanded definition of whiteness. Whiteness meant to have a god ordained right to bring tameness to everything they feared, they feared everything and everything they feared they destroyed, including the countryside.

The issues of white supremecy is much more relevent than the good over evil argument, and while indigenous people's did not previously have words for racism, the new peoples brought with them a well established system of white supremecy which again excluded many white skinned peoples. These systems most often resulted in people's general fears of themselves and thus they often excecuted and turtured their own members. Even though you were white you could still be considered evil and put to death in order to save you, but this is the system settup by whites to dominate by controling the symbols of GOD.