This is the season of myth-making and merriment. As many rush off to see the latest blow in Hollywood’s abusive relationship with history to regain more myths about Abraham Lincoln (even the New York Times says it disappears Black people!) and many more rush off to – even unwittingly – praise Indigenous genocide Dr. Marimba Ani offers a radical intervention: Afrikan/Indigenous Worldview and Sovereignty. We also encourage that people check out Native Blood: The Myth of Thanksgiving for more on this history and also this interview with Lerone Bennett, Jr. about the Abraham Lincoln we are forever made to forget so that his – and the more important national – mythology can continue to inhibit our own struggle for a better world.
“Misgivings:” An Afrikan-centered, Indigenous-centered View
By Mama Marimba
A group of European scavengers, many of whom had been imprisoned or homeless in England, arrived in New England in 1620. They first lived on Turtle Island. Half of them died within the first few months. Squanto, of the Pequot people, who had been enslaved by the Europeans and taken to England, spoke English and formed a “close” relationship with these “pitiful” migrants. He taught them how to grow corn and to fish, how to prepare certain foods, and other survival skills. The white people “saw Squanto as an instrument of their god to help his chosen people.” In other words, they used him. To them, he and his people were “heathens” and “savages”. The world view of the indigenous peoples, much like the Afrikan world view, taught them “to give freely to those who had nothing.” Squanto is said to have negotiated a false “treaty” between the nearby Wampanoag and the “pilgrims”. The leader of the Wampanoag Nation, Massasoit, donated food stores to the struggling colony of Europeans. In 1621, having survived a hard winter, due to the help of the Wampanoag, the Europeans celebrated, as was their custom to have “thanksgivings” to their god. No Wampanoag or members of any other indigenous nations were invited. And yet, they came and supplied most of the food. In return for helping them to survive, the “pilgrims” decimated the Wampanoag through disease, treachery and slaughter in the years which followed. By 1637, as the Europeans were feeling successful, more powerful and in control of their newly conquered territory, an expedition was sent to Connecticut, near Groton. Over 700 Indigenous peoples (Pequot) were celebrating their yearly harvest (Annual Green Corn Festival), when they were taken by surprise by the white invaders. Their men were shot and clubbed to death, while their women and children were burned alive. Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, proclaimed a “day of thanksgiving,” saying that they should thank god for destroying the savages to make way for “a better growth” (quoted in the work of Cotton Mather). What followed constitutes a most vicious record of continuing massacres of the indigenous people of this land now known as “america.”
It became the custom of the white destroyers to follow each massacre with a “thanksgiving.”
Rewards would be given to those who returned with the skulls of indigenous people to encourage their slaughter. In 1863, it was decided to “celebrate” only one annual day of “thanksgiving,” proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln. At a later period, the 4th Thursday of November was chosen by the capitalists, calculated to dramatize the shopping days until christmas. It became a marketing scheme.
In 1970, at the 350th anniversary of the landing of the pilgrims, a leader of Indigenous peoples prepared a speech in which he told the true history of Plymouth, and berated the white people for robbing the graves of the Wampanoag. The officials of Massachusetts did not allow him to make the speech. Every year since then, Indigenous people of this land have looked upon the 4th Thursday of November as a day of mourning. (See Russell Means, Susan Bates, and Jaqueline Keeler, and other sources for more information.)
We, Afrikan people in America, are victims of the same process that resulted in the murder of millions of Indigenous people and the decimation of their Nations.
“america was built by stolen labor on stolen land!”
That is the legacy of Europeans on this continent. That is what this country represents.
Taking without thanks
Change is not easy. We are use to celebrating with our families on this day. It is always so good to come together and to share a meal with each other. But we do have alternatives. And we always need to be in the process of growth. Growth makes change necessary. We can change a little at a time, remembering that our goal is Afrikan Sovereignty.
When you are with your family on Thursday, November 22, take a moment to remember and talk about the true meaning of this “holy day”
We don’t have to contribute to the profit-making mania organized by the large conglomerates, encouraging us to spend money that we don’t have during the weekend following that day. Don’t shop!
Make the sacrifice of fasting on that day. Yes, it will be a challenge, but you can still enjoy your family and at the same time identify with those who were exploited, murdered, and raped of their resources, as we have been. (This is not a cause for celebration.)
Let us choose a day on which the Pan-Afrikan World Nation gives thanks together for the gift of Afrikan Ancestry, and the sacrifices that have been made for us by our Ancestors! We can start small, with the Afrikans that we know. (See Kobi Kambon, The African Personality in America, pp. 194-200 for suggestions for our own “calendar” of Holy Days. For further reading, see: Shakamusa Barashango, Afrikan People and European Holidays.)
It is a process. Let’s begin it now!
In Afrikan Sovereignty,
Mama Marimba Ani