Autumn leaves are falling. Our country is poised to sample a smorgasbord of holidays and traditions. But hold on before you gobble that last piece of turkey, I would like to share two areas of traditions and truths.
Tradition: Thanksgiving is just around the corner and it is also National Indigenous People month. In elementary school, we grew up with the fuzzy story of how the pilgrims and their ally, the Wampanoag Native Americans came together to celebrate a 3-day feast in 1621. I remember half of our class would dress as pilgrims and the other half as Indians. Why was I always an Indian?
Truth: Let’s take a quick look at the Dark Thanksgiving. You know the one intentionally left out of American history books. After dinner, the peace between the colonists and the Wampanoag ultimately fell apart. The covetous pilgrims decided they were more intelligent than their savage neighbors. Give me a break. This motley crew was not intelligent enough to survive in the new world without the assistance of these so-called ignorant savages. Later, the colonists chose war over gratitude. Now the war had nothing to do with WHAT was on the menu but everything to do with WHO was on the menu.
The mindset of the colonists is interesting because it is interwoven into the fabric of our country. The lethal combination of biblical scripture and racism became drivers and justification for their dark hearts. Truth: The origin of Thanksgiving Day was established by Massachusetts governor John Winthrop. He declared Thanksgiving a day to celebrate the colonial soldiers who had just murdered 700 Pequot men, women and children in what is now the village of Mystic, Connecticut. The rest of the truth resulted in the looting and decimation of our indigenous people. For the surviving indigenous people, the Trail of Tears would be their repayment for their kindness and trust. This land is now known as the property of the United States of America.
Back to school we go. What comes to your mind when I mention the year 1787? A single image is etched into my memory bank. I see a bunch of white men in a crowded room with George Washington standing on a platform. These seven men, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington are known as the nation’s founding fathers and the framers of our Constitution.
Truth: Let’s dig deeper and look at what is happening in 1744. According to the New York Times, Iroquois chief, Canasatego is addressing a treaty conference between the American colonist and the six-nation Iroquois Confederacy. The two groups met in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (the same state that delivered the 2020 presidency to President –Elect Joe Biden) to hash out disputes over the issues of colonists trespassing on Native American territory and to seek a solution to this escalating problem. The Iroquois agreed to ally with the colonist against the French invaders. Canasatego introduced the colonists to the federalist’s ideas that bound their tribes in unity and defense. Out of this conference came the main influence of America’s constitution. It was the unwritten democratic constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy. Their constitution had been used and executed since the 16th century.
Many historians believe none of the colonists were more influenced by Canasatego than Benjamin Franklin. Indeed, Canasatego’s influences were instrumental in the adaption process of the framework our constitution. Consequently, the Iroquois never received any credit. Subsequently, historians simply wrote them out of the American experience.
How do we pay homage to our Indigenous People this month and every day? We remember their sacrifice to our democracy. We celebrate the beauty of their culture and the survival of their legacy. We put some respect on their invaluable contributions to our country. Truthful and diverse curriculum must be taught in our schools and places of worship. Lastly, we must continue to speak truth to power. America, what are you doing after dinner?