Thanksgiving: Celebrating the Genocide of Native Americans

The sad reality about the United States of America is that in a matter of a few hundreds years it managed to rewrite its own history into a mythological fantasy. The concepts of liberty, freedom and free enterprise in the “land of the free, home of the brave” are a mere spin. The US was founded and became prosperous based on two original sins: firstly, on the mass murder of Native Americans and theft of their land by European colonialists; secondly, on slavery. This grim reality is far removed from the fairy tale version of a nation that views itself in its collective consciousness as a virtuous universal agent for good and progress. The most recent version of this mythology was expressed by Ronald Reagan when he said that “America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.”

In rewriting its own history about Thanksgiving, white America tells a Disney-like fairytale about the English pilgrims and their struggle to survive in a new and harsh environment. The pilgrims found help from the friendly and extremely generous Native-American tribe, the Wampanoag Indians, in 1621. Unfortunately for Native Americans, the European settlers’ gratitude was short-lived. By 1637, Massachusetts governor John Winthrop ordered the massacre of thousands of Pequot Indian men, women and children. This event marked the start of a Native-American genocide that would take slightly more than 200 years to complete, and of course to achieve its ultimate goal, which was to take the land from Native Americans and systematically plunder their resources. The genocide begun in 1637 marks the beginning of the conquest of the entire continent until most Native Americans were exterminated, a few were assimilated into white society, and the rest were put in reservations to dwindle and die.

When Christopher Columbus “discovered” the Americas in 1492, on his quest for gold and silver, the Native population, which he erroneously called Indians, numbered an estimated 15 million who lived north of current day Mexico. It was, by all considerations, a thriving civilization. Three hundred and fifty years later, the Native American population north of Mexico would be reduced to fewer than a million. This genocide was brought upon the Natives by systematic mass murder and also by disease, notably smallpox, spread by the European colonists.

Columbus and his successors’ proto-capitalist propensity for greed was foreign to Native Americans. They viewed the land as tribal collective ownership, not as a property that could be owned by individuals. “Columbus and his successors were not coming to an empty wilderness, but into a world which, in some places, was as densely populated as Europe, and where the culture was complex, where human relations were more egalitarian than in Europe, and where the relations between men, women, children and nature were more beautifully worked out than perhaps in any other places in the world.” wrote Howard Zinn in his masterful A People’s History of the United States.

In many ways, the US’ celebration of Thanksgiving is analogous to setting aside a day in Germany to celebrate the Holocaust. Thanksgiving is the American Holocaust. The original crimes of genocide and slavery are not limited to US early history but have found an extension in the policies of modern-day US. The systematic assault on other nations and cultures still goes on under various pretenses or outright lies. United States wars of empire are going on today more than ever before. These wars have left millions of people dead across the world in the course of American history, and they are still fought for the same reasons behind the Native American genocide and slavery: namely, to expand the wealth of the US elite.

Defenders of Thanksgiving will say that whatever the original murky meaning of the holiday, it has become a rare chance to spend time with family and show appreciation for what one has. For most Americans today, however, it is hard to be thankful. As matter of fact, unless you belong to the 2 percent who represent the US ruling class you should not be thankful at all. How can you be appreciative for what you have if you have lost your house to foreclosure, don’t have a job and can’t feed your family? How can you be appreciative if you are a homeless veteran? How can you be appreciative when you are poor or sick in a society without social justice? On this Thanksgiving day, rich celebrities and politicians will make a parody of what should be real charity by feeding countless poor and homeless. This will ease their conscience, at least for a while. Charity, however, should not be a substitute for social justice. Just to ruin some people’s appetites before they attack that golden turkey: keep in mind that today we are celebrating a genocide.






24 Responses to Thanksgiving: Celebrating the Genocide of Native Americans

  1. WBTravis November 25, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Now really, to compare the Holocaust to the European expansion in North America? Not the same, not even close. One was a natural event where 2 cultures came into conflict and the stronger dominated, the other was a planned crime against humanity. Moronic, at best, to even use the one as an example of the other. Now go eat your Turkey and do some reading of history.
    P.S. this is what happens when you have lax immigration controls.

    • MCThurton November 25, 2010 at 10:42 am

      Right, the european colonists naturally decided to massacre thousands of native americans. Darwinism at its best… really

      • ljw November 25, 2010 at 10:54 am

        I would have massacred them too if they were attacking and killing everyone I knew.

        • lebleu November 25, 2010 at 4:17 pm

          I haven’t seen ignorance at this level for a very long time. How disgusting.

        • Rozziman November 28, 2010 at 11:15 pm

          Well would you attack people who were squatting on your land? That’s all the Indians ever did. Maybe you should read some history that wasn’t written by American Expansionists who totally supported the ideal of Manifest Destiny.

  2. Chuck D. November 25, 2010 at 9:05 am

    You can’t be so hateful and negative. Even the poorest most hungry person has something to be thankful for. Celebrate Thanksgiving as a way to honor how the Native Americans lived, what they believed in. Yes, most American history is a lie and today many suffer, but even in times of great suffering,thanks can be found.

    • John November 25, 2010 at 11:13 am

      Right On!

  3. Ciana Vargas November 25, 2010 at 10:15 am

    I completely agree with this article. I understand the “let’s just be thankful for what we have” argument, but ignoring the true history of this “holiday”, and misleading school-aged children into believing this is a respectful day, is appalling. This is not about Native Americans and Pilgrims breaking bread. Be honest with yourselves… Native Americans were abused and murdered, and we celebrate this while conning ourselves into thinking it’s about giving thanks.

  4. Aida November 25, 2010 at 10:44 am

    It is exactly as if the Germans were to celebrate the Holocaust. Only, here, Indigenous people are close to extinction. An entire race of people. It had nothing to do with a natural event. Natural? What is natural about murder, rape and the extinction of a group of people? I wish people would educate themselves.

    This remake/rewrite of history is taught to our children and the lies will continue to spread. I agree with this article. It is deeper than just being “thankful” for things in your life. Do we really need a day to be thankful? No. Be thankful everyday. Celebrate holidays that don’t include genocide.

    Think about the millions of deaths, rapes, murders of men, children and women as you are “thankful” and “enjoy your turkey”.

  5. Ole Ole Olson November 25, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Let us be thankful the “job” is not yet complete, although it is still in motion. There are up to one million natives left in the United States (although that number varies by definition of how much indigenous ancestry is needed to be considered Native American).

    Many of these folks are still being persecuted today. The infrastructure is so bad on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, that a snowstorm that blew threw there recently has left 50,000 on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe, but the corporate mainstream is silent about this.

    Extraordinary steps are required to re-empower the first ones, including finally granting tribes not only a semi-autonomous status, but full independence. They predate the US and have a right to self determination.

  6. Liam Fox November 25, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    The indigenous peoples rights movement is gaining steam. This issue is far from over. In many countries, including Canada, this movement is becoming a social and political force aggressively challenging the status quo and assertively demanding and standing up for their rights with direct action and militant commitment. Human rights, social justice, economic justice and full equality are not issues that can be swept under the rug by a couple hundred years of oppression and exploitation. These issues demand the attention of all humans. In order to ensure your own rights, you must fight for the rights of all.

  7. Ali baba November 25, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Very informative, and I agree we shouldn’t paint a prideful fantasy of American history for our youth… But we also cannot change history, nor should we live the rest of our lives in guilt of decisions of our ancestors.

    However the author seems very negative and resentful. If this is such a burden to your soul and stops you from enjoying what you have, or makes you try and stop other people from enjoying what they have, then this is your problem. Go out and help all those underprivileged folks, go to the reservations, do something besides making generalizations of the well-being of others!

    Sometimes, it takes loss and hardship to appreciate what you have left. There are many poor people who appreciate life more than rich people.

    • Liam Fox November 25, 2010 at 6:39 pm

      So we did North American Aboriginals a favor? WTF kind of reasoning is this? Don’t worry about how you got something, just be thankful that you have it and it’s OK cause the poor people are happy anyway. This is one twisted way of thinking.

    • John Justice November 28, 2010 at 11:43 am

      Did you actually read the article? These are not just the sins of ancestors…. These are atrocities that are still going on today. These are the attitudes that allow the Native American people to still be mistreated today. The genocide continues….

  8. Gail November 25, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    I agree with the article. There’s nothing thankful about back-stabbing and stealing. Also is the last Thursday in November the only day people can remember to be thankful for everything? I mean, there are the other 364 days of the year.

  9. Ben November 25, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    While yes, there were many atrocities committed against the Native Americans, there’s one sentence in this entire article that completely makes this entire article fairly invalid. The author states that 16 years after the original thanksgiving, that there were these massacres of native americans. Well, the pilgrims weren’t committing these atrocities on the original thanksgiving, but years later they were, yet we’re going to associate the atrocities with the celebration of thanks just because people committed them later? Granted bad deeds overshadow any good deeds, it’s a fact of life, but why do we find we need to have politically correct agendas for everything in life? I do say that we need to acknowledge that the atrocities have happened, and that we need to learn and grow constantly from our horrible past, but where does anyone get off saying that thanksgiving is like celebrating the holocaust? The holocaust was terrible, people died, but that event was entirely about killing, but Thanksgiving was about two groups of people coming together, that is what we focus on for thanksgiving. The atrocities happened later, yet this is all the European settlers are going to be remembered by, just in the same way that Germany is remembered for its atrocities in WWII, completely overshadowing all their contributions to the modern world before WWII. Do we throw away all progress made before bad things happen just because the bad things happened? No, we don’t. So seriously people, to be fair to everyone, put your focus on the issues individually rather than lumping them together with a holiday just to bring attention to a certain agenda that you have. You have a right to be upset about atrocities, but you also have the right to shut up and just let people celebrate a holiday that’s meant to be positive. Address the unfair treatment of Native Americans in the past in a different manner than trying to protest this day of thanksgiving.

    • John Justice November 28, 2010 at 11:47 am

      OMG…. These atrocities still persist. These are a people who are still being mistreated. All of their lands have been taken and sacred sites are being abused and demolished as we speak. There really is nothing for Native-Americans to celebrate.

  10. Derek Murphy November 26, 2010 at 6:11 am

    Amazing post. I made the same connection with the holocaust on my blog, but traced it back to the Jewish extermination of the cultures already living in their promised land. Isn’t it justified by religion?

    • Gilbert Mercier
      Gilbert Mercier November 26, 2010 at 7:28 am


      Thanks for your excellent article establishing the same connection that I did between the Holocaust and the genocide of Native Americans in the Americas. Also, I didn’t want to bring this up in my article because my argument was very specific, but the current policies of Israel’s expansion by building thousands of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories amount to the same thing in its principle as the American genocide. It is about ethnic cleansing, stealing land and resources (in the case of Palestine/Israel it is water). Keep up the good work. I bookmarked your site.

  11. Brigette.newspaper November 26, 2010 at 6:34 am

    Thanksgiving is a wonderful event for all of us. Although we have to be thankful everyday for something, this is a day dedicated for being thankful and to think about all the great things we have in our lives! Enjoy these unique days!

  12. rj November 26, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Yea. All the different tribes lived in peaceful harmony, they sought out each other to help and enlighten each other, they did not take slaves, kidnap and rape each other’s women and keep them for themselves. They lived in harmony with nature and did not run herds of buffalo off cliffs to kill as many as possible, they did not encroach on each others’ land and fight to take it over. They did not wipe out or take over weaker tribes, or merge tribes together to get stronger to take over others… just saying.

  13. Mike November 27, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    Just a slight divergence from reality and your logic that Thanksgiving between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag natives began a genocide of 200 million Native Americans. If it had been, the Puritans would have slaughtered the Wampanoag natives right then and there. Just a minor inaccuracy right? What happened 16 years later, lets just forget about that time frame and blame those damn Pilgrims for starting it off with sharing with the Native Americans. They should have shot their guests right? Lets not celebrate that they shared and actually peacefully coexisted with them.

    Speaking of how friendly the Natives are and how they never cause trouble. The Iroquois completely wiped out every single last Huron indian. Where is the out cry about that? Oh yeah, it didn’t happen right? The peace loving Iroquois never hurt a single person ever. Native Americans were only peace loving naturalists victimized by the evil Europeans. Well we can thank them for tobacco, and they can thank us for smallpox which probably wiped out 190 million of those Natives. I don’t hear them apologizing for tobacco related deaths, why is that? Oh, and that 200 million number? Interesting how the US population only hit that in the last 50 years. Where did that number come from? I highly doubt they had the proper agrarian society with the proper infrastructure to support 200 million people.

    Don’t you love apologists? Take your liberal arts degree and go back to school and read the rest of the history you absolutely missed. Comparing the Nazi treatment of Jews to the American treatment of Native Americans is brutal. You should get a job for Pravda. Oh right, they don’t write like that anymore. Sorry.

  14. Maham November 28, 2010 at 9:54 am

    How can gay poverty kill Indian when they can not even Indian….the blue coats got her not the red knight.


    col. henry rutgers.

  15. Roger Rusch November 29, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    The Stone-age Asian invaders are getting what they did to the original white european natives. Genocide!! Noble savage my aunt tilly, pfooey. These people are even more backwards than the dear South-of-the-border almost stone-agers. Oh I forgot they invented brain surgery, sure like their modern heart surgery methods. What a Laugh. Are we talking about the same people? Or are you thinking of some fantasy Walt Disney or Peter Pan Red Man? You guys did hear of Kenewick man?

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