Centuries before the year the English Puritan pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in the early 17th century, a number of Native American prophets foresaw their coming—not with thanksgiving but apocalyptic foreboding.
Among them was a Chippewa seer who lived on a rock promontory overlooking Lake Superior in North America. In a visionary dream he saw the coming of the alien invaders across the eastern ocean centuries before it happened. He described “men of strange appearance” with skins “white like snow” who would sail to the eastern shores of their continent in “wonderfully large canoes that have great white wings like those of a bird.”
“The strangers had sharp, long knives and long black tubes which they point at birds and animals,” continued the Chippewa seer. This image may describe the snow white people, with swords strapped to their sides hunting for game with weapons unknown to the Native Americans, such as muskets and blunderbusses.
“From the tubes,” added the seer, “comes fire and such terrific noise that I was frightened, even in my dream.”
In 1620, the New England natives hundreds of miles east of the descendants of the Chippewa seer, sighted the first white-skinned Puritan pilgrims disembarking on New England’s shores from a great sailing ship with white wings of canvas.
The Thanksgiving legend taught to American school children depicts the Pilgrims thanking their Native American neighbors for helping them plant root crops and hunt enough game to survive the onset of their first New England winter. So rich was their stockpile that legend says the Pilgrims invited the natives to a feast of thanksgiving. Today in America people eat an approximation of the food consumed at that first gathering, including the famous main course of stuffed turkey. Americans considered the holiday a time to pray to God and be thankful for the bounty and riches they enjoy.
For me the whole thing is hard to digest, in more ways than from suffering the sudden gastronomic impact of one too many helpings of bird meat drowned in fatty gravy. One also chases every traditional Thanksgiving Day feast with an emotional excess of indigestible holiday platitudes, stuffy prayers, and the umpteenth consumption of the traditional Pilgrim yarn with one’s third helping of yams.
If one hears the Thanksgiving tale from the Native American point of view—and if one reads their fulfilled prophecies of a coming Native American apocalypse from European invaders—then one’s heart can burn with more than turkey stuffing bile on that American holiday. Thus I serve my guests on that day some alternative food for thought. There is no turkey cooking in my house. Rather, I always celebrate Thanksgiving with the pungent garlic wake-up slap to the taste buds of Genovese Italian pesto with linguine, and streamed vegetables, chased with a bottle of red wine.
Why not a turkey dinner, you might ask?
Well, out of deference to the Native Americans seers of the past, I “am” serving up food in memory of a turkey from Genoa. It is Christopher Colombus, the mariner hailing from that pesto port, who made the prophecies about Plymouth rockers and native apocalyptic shockers possible.
In 1492, he convinced the Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to finance his voyage across the Atlantic in search of a short cut sailing route to India. He convinced the Spanish monarchs that Spain could exploit the unlimited resources of “Indian” riches and convert Indian souls for the glory of Spain and the Christian God. To cut a long historical tale short, Columbus did not find India, but he was responsible for making the Western World aware of a whole new world and new races to exploit, convert, and conquer.
The Pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock nearly 130 years after Columbus and the white invasion of the new world began. By that time an earlier advent of European explorers and conquerors of Central, South American native empires had already spread a pestilence of Old World diseases across the New World. The American native nations would suffer decimation even before most of them saw their first white men. Even the natives introduced to the Pilgrims belonged to tribes who were a shadow of their original numbers. By the end of the 17th century the “snow-white” skinned invaders would plunder native cultures, enslave, subjugate and infect native populations carrying off upwards of 50 million people. This makes the Native American Holocaust the greatest of all time.
My Thanksgiving feast will never see the traditional foods offered by native Americans to the Puritans because of what they did sixteen years after the first Thanksgiving celebration. These very same “snow skinned” people would turn their “fire tubes” on their red skinned neighbors in the Plymouth region and decimate their tribes in massacres. After which the Puritans no doubt had a feast in thanksgiving for that!
Centuries after these events, I cannot see what reason the Native people (and millions of turkeys) have to be thankful.
To me Thanksgiving is a state sanctioned celebration based on genocide and the denial of a historic crime. Imagine, if you will, what it would be like if centuries from now Germans celebrated a feast of thanksgiving for winning World War II every year on 9 November. In that hypothetical future—held on the annual feast day of “Krystallnacht”—the bountiful good will and good food might help blot out any uncomfortable distant memories. In that far off future the glad people of the Third Reich might forget how the founding “Pilgrims” of a Nazi Empire nearly annihilated another ancient tribe. They might selectively remove from their memory those 12 tribes from Zion who had contributed so much to German culture before the Nazi “Puritan” founding fathers decided they where savages requiring relocation to reservations for extermination.
Or do they?
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for being thankful and celebrating. To me every day ought to be a day of Thanksgiving. Rather, I choose to consciously celebrate Thanksgiving holiday beyond its traditional false pretense.
I close by making a prediction concerning the future of this hallowed—yet misguided—holiday. The people of a new and more conscious humanity will review the past, and become more sensitive to the misunderstandings and outright crimes that are often the foundations of today’s most automatically honored traditions. They will rename Thanksgiving calling it “Native American Holocaust Day.” They will gather on that day to remember the past as it was and not bury the record of inhumanity in some comforting myth. They will be thankful that the childish humanity that could pray in thanksgiving one day then prey on victims the next, exists no more on Earth.
So, with all tenderness and no malice intended to you and yours (or any turkeys I have forgotten to mention), this “turkey” wishes you and yours a happy Native American Holocaust Day.
(2 December 2000)
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