Author Topic: Plymouth Rock landed on us!  (Read 1291 times)

Offline Stringer

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Plymouth Rock landed on us!
« on: November 16, 2006, 02:42:29 am »
Subject: Thanksgiving - A National Day of Mourning for Indigenous
Peoples
 
 
Z Magazine Online
 
November 2006 Volume 19 Number 11
Quiddity
 
Thanksgiving A National Day of Mourning for Indians
 
By Moonanum James and Mahtowin Munro
 
Every year since 1970, United American Indians of New England has
organized the National Day of Mourning in Plymouth at noon on
Thanksgiving Day. Hundreds of Native people and supporters from all
four directions join in. Every year, Native people from throughout the
Americas speak the truth about our history and the current issues and
struggles we are involved in.
 
Thanksgiving in this country- and in particular in Plymouth-is much
more than a harvest home festival. It is a celebration of the pilgrim
mythology. According to this mythology, the pilgrims arrived, the
Native people fed them and welcomed them, the Indians promptly faded into the
background, and everyone lived happily ever after.
 
The pilgrims are glorified and mythologized because the circumstances
of the first English-speaking colony in Jamestown were frankly too ugly
(for example, they turned to cannibalism to survive) to hold up as an
effective national myth. The pilgrims did not find an empty land any
more than Columbus "discovered" anything. Every inch of this land is
Indian land. The pilgrims (who did not even call themselves pilgrims)
did not come seeking religious freedom; they already had that in
Holland. They came as part of a commercial venture. They introduced
sexism, racism, anti-lesbian and gay bigotry, jails, and the class
system to these shores. One of the very first things they did when they
arrived on Cape Cod-before they made it to Plymouth-was to rob
Wampanoag graves at Corn Hill and steal as much of the Indians' winter provisions
of corn and beans as they were able to carry. In doing this, they were
no better than any other group of Europeans when it came to their
treatment of the indigenous peoples here. And no, they did not even
land at that sacred shrine called Plymouth Rock, a monument to racism and
oppression which we are proud to say we buried in 1995.
 
The first official "Day of Thanksgiving" was proclaimed in 1637 by
Governor Winthrop. He did so to celebrate the safe return of people
from the Massachusetts Bay Colony who had gone to Mystic, Connecticut to
participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot women, children, and
men.
 
About the only true thing in the whole mythology is that these pitiful
European strangers would not have survived their first several years in
"New England" were it not for the aid of Wampanoag people. What Native
people got in return for this help was genocide, theft of their lands,
and never-ending repression. They were treated either as quaint relics
from the past or virtually invisible.
 
When we dare to stand up for our rights, we are considered
unreasonable.
 
When we speak the truth about the history of the European invasion, we
are often told to "go back where we came from." But we came from right
here, our roots are here. They do not extend across any ocean.
 
The National Day of Mourning began in 1970 when Wamsutta Frank James, a
Wampanoag, was asked to speak at a state dinner celebrating the 350th
anniversary of the pilgrim landing. He refused to speak in praise of
the white man for bringing civilization to the poor heathens. Native people
from throughout the Americas came to Plymouth that year where they
mourned their forebears who had been sold into slavery, burned alive,
massacred, cheated, and mistreated since the arrival of the Pilgrims in
1620.
 
But the commemoration of National Day of Mourning goes far beyond the
circumstances of 1970. Can we give thanks as we remember Native
political prisoner Leonard Peltier, who was framed by the FBI and has
been falsely imprisoned since 1976? Despite mountains of evidence
exonerating Peltier and the proven misconduct of federal prosecutors
and the FBI, Peltier has been denied a new trial. To Native people, the
case of Peltier is one more ordeal in a litany of wrongdoings committed by
the U.S. government against us. While the media in New England present
images of the "Pequot miracle" in Connecticut, the vast majority of
Native people continue to live in the most abysmal poverty.
 
Can we give thanks for the fact that, on many reservations,
unemployment rates surpass 50 percent? Our life expectancies are much lower, our
infant mortality and teen suicide rates much higher, than those of
white Americans. Racist stereotypes of Native people, such as those
perpetuated by the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves, and countless
local and national sports teams, persist.
 
Every single one of the more than 350 treaties that Native nations
signed has been broken by the U.S. government. Bipartisan budget cuts
have severely reduced educational opportunities for Native youth and
the development of new housing on reservations, and have caused deadly
cutbacks in health-care and other necessary services. Are we to give
thanks for being treated as unwelcome in our own country?
 
Perhaps we are expected to give thanks for the war that is being waged
by the Mexican government against indigenous peoples there, with the
military aid of the U.S. in the form of helicopters and other
equipment?
 
When the descendants of the Aztec, Maya, and Inca flee to the U.S., the
descendants of the wash-ashore pilgrims term them "illegal aliens" and
hunt them down.
 
We object to the "Pilgrim's Progress" parade and to what goes on in
Plymouth because they are making millions of tourist dollars every year
from the false pilgrim mythology. That money is being made off the
backs of our slaughtered indigenous ancestors.
 
Increasing numbers of people are seeking alternatives to Thanksgiving
(and such holidays as Columbus Day). They are coming to the conclusion
that, if we are ever to achieve some sense of community, we must first
face the truth about the history of this country and the toll that
history has taken on the lives of millions of indigenous, Black,
Latino, Asian, and poor and working class white people.
 
The myth of Thanksgiving, served up with dollops of European
superiority and manifest destiny, just does not work for many people in this
country. As Malcolm X once said about the African-American experience
in America, "We did not land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on
us."
 
Exactly.
Mahtowin Munro (Lakota) and Moonanum James (Wampanoag) are coleaders of
United American Indians of New England (www.home.earthlink
<http://www.home.earthlink/>. net/
~uainendom).