Every year, on Thursday and November, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving.
National holidays – one of the busiest times in the US – is a time for families across the country to gather to eat turkey, squash, corn, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie.
In a popular story, a Thanksgiving party can be traced back to a friendly meeting 400 years ago between English Pilgrims – regular passengers on the Mayflower train – and Native Americans in Plymouth, Massachusetts today.
But for the Indians who called the area their home for at least 12,000 years, the arrival of British colonists has led to the scourge, genocide and heartbreak of generations that continue to this day.
“The issue of Thanksgiving today is a disgrace to our history,” said Steven Peters, a member of the Mashpee tribe of Wampanoag in Massachusetts, who views Thanksgiving as a gift. national funeral day.
“It paints a picture of these helpful Indians who were waiting for the Pilgrims to arrive so that we could teach them how to hunt, fish, and cultivate crops properly,” Peters told Al Jazeera, emphasizing, however, that this was not real. it happened.
‘The Great Controversy’
Now, Wampanoag is reviving the history of Thanksgiving in the middle of the world by pushing for the US to recognize – and fight against – colonial heritage and its lasting consequences for Indians and territories.
By the time European explorers arrived in North America, Wampanoag was a thriving community of 70 villages with a population of about 100,000.
The Wampanoag, whose name means “People of the First Light”, lived along the west coast of Cape Cod Bay, fruit-bearing areas with deer and elk in the woods, and fish and clams in the rivers. They grew corn, squash, and beans. In winter, they migrated upstream to warmer homes away from the harsh North Atlantic climate.
But sometime during the 1616’s, Europeans who invaded the New World brought with them viruses that devastated the Indians.
The villagers began to show signs of illness, yellow skin, malaria and blisters, Peters said. An unknown plague ravaged the Wampanoag tribe. When they got sick, most of them died within just a few days. About 80 percent to 90 percent of the population died within three years.
The Wampanoag calls it, “The Great Disruption”.
A few years before Mayflower arrived in 1620, a team of English explorers kidnapped about 20 Wampanoag men, who were then sold into slavery in Spain, says Peters, who is now a Wampanoag historian.
Among them was a man named Tisquantum, who traveled from Spain to England and eventually returned home before Mayflower arrived.
Tisquantum, also known as Squanto, found that his village had been devastated by the plague. But after learning English, he served as a translator and guide for the early Pilgrims, who were deeply religious.
Historians are aware of the first Thanksgiving thanks to a letter written by Edward Winslow, one of Pilgrim’s leaders.
“When we arrived at our harvest, our governor sent four men on horseback to enjoy the fruits of our labor.” Winslow wrote.
A group of about 90 Wampanoag men, whom Peters said were probably warriors, joined the Pilgrims at a party and entertainment for three days, Winslow wrote. The festival removed the fear of starvation from the colonialists.
Nothing else is known about that encounter, but history does provide the story.
For 50 years, the colonists and Wampanoag had formed a coalition led by the leader of Wampanoag Massasoit.
But after Massasoit’s death, his youngest son became a leader and left a peace deal following the colonial invasion of history described in the 2019 book, This Land Is their Land, by David J Silverman.
‘Brink of extinction’
A devastating war ensued from 1675 to 1678 between Wampanoag and the colonists. Hundreds were killed on both sides and after the conflict, the Wampanoag were defeated. Many were killed or sold into slavery.
“Our language was taken away from us. Our children were sent to boarding school. Families split up. Then we lost our land because of taxes. That’s why we didn’t have anything, “Peters told Al Jazeera.
“There was a time when we had about 1,000 people or less. We were about to run out,” Peters said.
For more than 200 years, the story of Thanksgiving was viewed by colonialists in the US as a celebration of harvest until President Abraham Lincoln declared it a worldwide day of prayer and thanksgiving to God in 1863, during the US Civil War.
Some historians speculate that the first English-language festival may have been held in Virginia about 1619, when a group of colonists was ordered to hold an annual celebration of thanksgiving for their arrival in the New World.
But the white supremacists and the Virginia tribes of Powhatan Nation fought several battles. In time, the colonists pushed the Native Americans into the park or west of the Appalachian Mountains.
The population of Wampanoag today is about 10,000, Peters said – and the community is growing.
Local leaders are engaged in costly housing, employment, and education, while revitalizing the Wampanoag language is taking place, including the use of Bible texts that were translated some 350 years ago.
Wampanoag language had become extinct by the middle of the 19th century when the number of local speakers declined.
The Mashpee brand has rebuilt a museum, in Mashpee, Massachusetts with exhibitions and videos that tell the community the story of Thanksgiving.
“We’re trying to make something that was taken away from us,” Peters said.
“Through courses such as exhibitions, videos, artist translations, we can begin to address some of the inequalities and prejudices that continue to exist today in our community.”
The history of other Native American groups is also included in articles that once covered the European side of the issue in the United States.
In the historic district of Williamsburg, Virginia, the former capital of the English province, actors share the history and knowledge of Native breeds of Virginia at the historic camp.
The Pamunkey, Mattaponi and Chickahominy tribes were regularly present in the 18th century in Williamsburg and other Virginia cities.
“The American story is not enough without a clear understanding of the population and the impact it had on building our country,” Colonial President Williamsburg President Cliff Fleet said in a statement. letter to celebrate the month of American Indian heritage, in November.
Like those in Massachusetts, the indigenous people of Virginia are growing, if not delayed, to realize their full potential in government. For example, in his last statement before leaving office in January, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam called on state agencies to consult with nations before making decisions that affect territories and watersheds.
Earlier this year, President Joe Biden became the first US President recognizing Indian Day on the same day as Columbus Day, a holiday commemorating Italian sailor Christopher Columbus, which Native Americans have long opposed.
Several Columbus statues has been removed from US cities in recent years between reckoning and a permanent colonial heritage.
Reflecting the changes in the US, Biden was selected Deb Haaland, An Native American from Arizona and a former member of Congress, to become secretary of the interior, the U.S. Department of Indigenous Affairs.
Recently, Biden had a summit of 570 tribal leaders from across the U.S. at the White House on November 15. The White House unveiled billions in new programs, programs and public safety for U.S. nations, including a better understanding of their right to historical unity old.