Every November, when Thanksgiving is scheduled, I think of the People of the First Nations (so-called Native Americans), and wonder about their mixed feelings for a holiday that celebrates their enormous generosity as well as their near-total destruction.
What do they have to be thankful of?
U.S. President Abraham Lincoln declared the first such holiday in 1863, and American popular culture has tied it to a meal between Aboriginal people and Europeans upon their arrival on this continent.
In fact, when the Spanish reached South America, and the English reached North America, they soon embarked on dual extermination campaigns, which led to holocausts of Indian nations, both north and south.
Their arrivals spelled the doom of hundreds of millions of people, hunted, starved, diseased and enslaved.
To them, hell had a white face.
They made treaty after treaty with the Indians, but the palefaces broke every one.
For the Conquistadors, Native peoples served as enslaved workers who worked themselves to death to mine silver and gold. To the Anglos, they were superfluous – it was Indian land they hungered for – and they got it – by hook or crook.
Caught between these two great, ravenous forces, there was little they could do, but fight, but Europe flooded the Americas with immigrants, and sheer numbers told the tale of woe.
When first they arrived, European settlements were places of disease, hunger and pitiless death. First Nations folk fed them, taught them planting and healed the, with herbal treatments. The colonists repaid them with unremitting war, smallpox used as biological weapons, land theft and slaughter.
Thanksgiving may be a holiday, but it ain’t a holy day.
It should be a day to be remembered, in remembrance of the First Nations that peopled this land, for tens of thousands of years.