When Barack Obama won the presidential elections a few weeks ago, one of my friends said that Gil Scot Heron* was wrong because the revolution had not only been televised, but that the whole world had participated in it. The very idea that my friend believes that the revolution will come from the ruling elite, shows the extent of our people’s ignorance about how power truly works on this planet. The revolution will come however, and one of the instruments that will help bring it about, is the internet and the new media. No wonder this technology instills fear in some people. For example, let’s take the story of Thanksgiving which is being celebrated in the US at the moment. Many of our people celebrate this holiday, naively believing the story that has been perpetuated for centuries about the Pilgrim Fathers celebrating this day, to “commemorate the harvest with the native Indians who were their honoured guests”. If that were the case, then how did the Indians disappear from North America? The truth is that the native Indians were simply exterminated by the pilgrim fathers and Thanksgiving was invented to celebrate European victory over the ‘native heathens’ and by extension the ‘primitive Africans’ who they also conquered. How many of our people celebrating Thanksgiving today realise that it is a celebration for the genocide and defeat of the native Indians? Our people must begin to take responsibilty for the holidays they celebrate. Now that you know what Thanksgiving is all about, you can continue to celebrate it or you can turn it into a day of mourning and remembrance for the victims of this horrendous holocaust. In any case, you can no longer feign ignorance about what the true meaning of Thanksgiving is. As the lies that have been told for centuries are exposed and discarded one by one, change will come to this planet as people simply modify their behaviour. That is why Gil Scot Heron was right when he said that "the revolution will not be televised." Hort
Murder, mayhem mark Halloween weekend
Thanksgiving Day : the National day of mourning
Text of 1970 speech by Wampsutta, an Aquinah Wampanoag Elder
When Frank James (1923 - February 20, 2001), known to the Wampanoag people as Wampsutta, was invited to speak by the Commonwealth of Massachusettsat the 1970 annual Thanksgiving feast at Plymouth. When the text of Mr. James’ speech, a powerful statement of anger at the history of oppression of the Native people of America, became known before the event, the Commonwealth "disinvited" him. Wampsutta was not prepared to have his speech revised by the Pilgrims. He left the dinner and the ceremonies and went to the hill near the statue of the Massasoit, who as the leader of the Wampanoags when the Pilgrims landed in their territory. There overlooking Plymouth Harbor, he looked at the replica of the Mayflower. It was there that he gave his speech that was to be given to the Pilgrims and their guests. There eight or ten Indians and their supporters listened in indignation as Frank talked of the takeover of the Wampanoag tradition, culture, religion, and land.
That silencing of a strong and honest Native voice led to the convening of the National Day of Mourning. The following is the text of 1970 speech by Wampsutta, an Aquinnah Wampanoag elder and Native American activist.
I speak to you as a man -- a Wampanoag Man. I am a proud man, proud of my ancestry, my accomplishments won by a strict parental direction ("You must succeed - your face is a different color in this small Cape Cod community!"). I am a product of poverty and discrimination from these two social and economic diseases. I, and my brothers and sisters, have painfully overcome, and to some extent we have earned the respect of our community. We are Indians first - but we are termed "good citizens." Sometimes we are arrogant but only because society has pressured us to be so.It is with mixed emotion that I stand here to share my thoughts. This is a time of celebration for you - celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People.
Even before the Pilgrims landed it was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them as slaves for 220 shillings apiece. The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans. Mourt's Relation describes a searching party of sixteen men. Mourt goes on to say that this party took as much of the Indians' winter provisions as they were able to carry. Massasoit, the great Sachem of the Wampanoag, knew these facts, yet he and his People welcomed and befriended the settlers of the Plymouth Plantation. Perhaps he did this because his Tribe had been depleted by an epidemic. Or his knowledge of the harsh oncoming winter was the reason for his peaceful acceptance of these acts. This action by Massasoit was perhaps our biggest mistake. We, the Wampanoag, 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.
What happened in those short 50 years? What has happened in the last 300 years? History gives us facts and there were atrocities; there were broken promises - and most of these centered around land ownership. Among ourselves we understood that there were boundaries, but never before had we had to deal with fences and stone walls. But the white man had a need to prove his worth by the amount of land that he owned. Only ten years later, when the Puritans came, they treated the Wampanoag with even less kindness in converting the souls of the so-called "savages." Although the Puritans were harsh to members of their own society, the Indian was pressed between stone slabs and hanged as quickly as any other "witch." And so down through the years there is record after record of Indian lands taken and, in token, reservations set up for him upon which to live. The Indian, having been stripped of his power, could only stand by and watch while the white man took his land and used it for his personal gain. This the Indian could not understand; for to him, land was survival, to farm, to hunt, to be enjoyed. It was not to be abused. We see incident after incident, where the white man sought to tame the "savage" and convert him to the Christian ways of life. The early Pilgrim settlers led the Indian to believe that if he did not behave, they would dig up the ground and unleash the great epidemic again.
The white man used the Indian's nautical skills and abilities. They let him be only a seaman -- but never a captain. Time and time again, in the white man's society, we Indians have been termed "low man on the totem pole." Has the Wampanoag really disappeared? There is still an aura of mystery. We know there was an epidemic that took many Indian lives - some Wampanoags moved west and joined the Cherokee and Cheyenne. They were forced to move. Some even went north to Canada! Many Wampanoag put aside their Indian heritage and accepted the white man's way for their own survival. There are some Wampanoag who do not wish it known they are Indian for social or economic reasons. What happened to those Wampanoags who chose to remain and live among the early settlers? What kind of existence did they live as "civilized" people? True, living was not as complex as life today, but they dealt with the confusion and the change. Honesty, trust, concern, pride, and politics wove themselves in and out of their [the Wampanoags'] daily living. Hence, he was termed crafty, cunning, rapacious, and dirty.
History wants us to believe that the Indian was a savage, illiterate, uncivilized animal. A history that was written by an organized, disciplined people, to expose us as an unorganized and undisciplined entity. Two distinctly different cultures met. One thought they must control life; the other believed life was to be enjoyed, because nature decreed it. Let us remember, the Indian is and was just as human as the white man. The Indian feels pain, gets hurt, and becomes defensive, has dreams, bears tragedy and failure, suffers from loneliness, needs to cry as well as laugh. He, too, is often misunderstood. The white man in the presence of the Indian is still mystified by his uncanny ability to make him feel uncomfortable. This may be the image the white man has created of the Indian; his "savageness" has boomeranged and isn't a mystery; it is fear; fear of the Indian's temperament! High on a hill, overlooking the famed Plymouth Rock, stands the statue of our great Sachem, Massasoit. Massasoit has stood there many years in silence. We the descendants of this great Sachem have been a silent people. The necessity of making a living in this materialistic society of the white man caused us to be silent. Today, I and many of my people are choosing to face the truth. We ARE Indians!
Although time has drained our culture, and our language is almost extinct, we the Wampanoags still walk the lands of Massachusetts. We may be fragmented, we may be confused. Many years have passed since we have been a people together. Our lands were invaded. We fought as hard to keep our land as you the whites did to take our land away from us. We were conquered, we became the American prisoners of war in many cases, and wards of the United States Government, until only recently. Our spirit refuses to die. Yesterday we walked the woodland paths and sandy trails. Today we must walk the macadam highways and roads. We are uniting We're standing not in our wigwams but in your concrete tent. We stand tall and proud, and before too many moons pass we'll right the wrongs we have allowed to happen to us. We forfeited our country. Our lands have fallen into the hands of the aggressor. We have allowed the white man to keep us on our knees. What has happened cannot be changed, but today we must work towards a more humane America, a more Indian America, where men and nature once again are important; where the Indian values of honor, truth, and brotherhood prevail.
You the white man are celebrating an anniversary. We the Wampanoags will help you celebrate in the concept of a beginning. It was the beginning of a new life for the Pilgrims. Now, 350 years later it is a beginning of a new determination for the original American: the American Indian. There are some factors concerning the Wampanoags and other Indians across this vast nation. We now have 350 years of experience living amongst the white man. We can now speak his language. We can now think as a white man thinks. We can now compete with him for the top jobs. We're being heard; we are now being listened to. The important point is that along with these necessities of everyday living, we still have the spirit, we still have the unique culture, we still have the will and, most important of all, the determination to remain as Indians. We are determined, and our presence here this evening is living testimony that this is only the beginning of the American Indian, particularly the Wampanoag, to regain the position in this country that is rightfully ours.
Massacre, murder, mayhem : the true story of thanksgiving
Dr. Tingba Apidta
Stools are stumps made good seats for the Pilgrim population. The Indians sat on the ground, gnawing on dear bones, tearing fowl apart, and lapping up the very ancient and rancid butter with grunts of appreciation. It is a pretty picture to think of." from Old Glory, by Samuel Eliot Morison
A harvest feast did take place in Plymouth in 1621, probably in mid-October and the Indians who attended were not even invited. It later became known as "Thanksgiving" but the Pilgrims never called it that. The pilgrim crop had failed miserably that year, but the agricultural expertise of the Pilgrims’ Indian friend Squanto had produced 20 acres of corn without which the Pilgrims would have surely perished. The Pilgrims invited Massasoit, and it was he who then invited 90 or more of his Indian brothers and sisters to the affair to the chagrin of the indignant Europeans. No turkey, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie was served, no prayers were offered and the Indians were not invited back.
The Pilgrims did, however, consume a good deal of home brew. In fact, each Pilgrim drank at least a half gallon of ale a day which they preferred even to water. Contrary to popular mythology, the Pilgrims were no friends to the majority of local Indians. Just days before this alleged Thanksgiving communion, a company of Pilgrims led by Myles Standish actively sought the head of a local chief. They deliberately caused a rivalry between two friendly Indians, putting 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.
Standish eventually got his bloody prize. He beheaded an Indian brave named Wituwamat and brought the head to Plymouth where it was displayed on a wooden spike for many years. Just a few years later, in about 1636, a force of colonists trapped some 700 Pequot Indian men, women, and children near the mouth of the Mystic River. English Captain John Mason attacked the Indian camp with "fire, sword, blunderbuss, and tomahawk." Only a handful escaped and few prisoners were taken, to the great delight of the Pilgrims: 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 what was most likely the first actual Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims were pleased with the result. Any goodwill that may have existed was certainly now gone and by 1675 Massachusetts and the surrounding colonies 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 laws and values engulfed them. Forced into humiliating submission by the power of a distant king, Metacomet struck out in 1675 with raids on several isolated frontier towns. The expedient use of the so-called "Praying Indians," natives converted by the colonists to "Christianity," ultimately defeated the great Indian nation, just half a century after the arrival of the European historian Douglas Edward Leach describes the bitter end:
The ruthless executions, the cruel sentences ... were all aimed at the same goal—unchallenging 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 assassinated Metacomet, 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 Thanksgiving Day, 1676. Metacomet’s nine-year-old son was destined for execution, the Puritan reasoning being that the offspring of the devil must pay for the sins of their father. He was instead shipped to the Caribbean to serve his life in slavery. In the midst of the Holocaust of the Red Man, Governor Dudley declared in 1704 a "General Thanksgiving" not to celebrate 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.
The model of the Indian reservation system in North America had its origin in Massachusetts. A series of legislative acts "for the better regulation of the Indians" established Indian settlements throughout the state. A White overseer was appointed and white Christianity was imposed. Historian George F. Weston wrote that demand was great for ropemaker John Harrison, what with "the need for rigging for all the ships and a new rope every time an Indian was hanged." Bon Appetite!
Dr. Tingba Apidta is author of The Hidden History of Massachusetts: A Guide for Black Folks and also The Hidden History of Washington, DC
Further reading on this site