Thanksgiving and Native Americans

There are a lot of myths about Pilgrims and the so-called First Thanksgiving. However, one thing that is certain — without the local Native Americans helping them the English colonists would have been toast. 

The indigenous people of the area, the Wampanoag (meaning the “People of the First Light”) are the ones who saved the Pilgrims from death by starvation during the winter of 1620–21.

people of the first light

The Wampanoag were primarily farmers who also hunted in the uncultivated lands around around their villages (many villages were large enough to be considered towns in Europe) and fished the coastal waters off of what is now Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Forget that “How. White man speak with forked tongue,” stereotype; it’s bullshit. These were peoples with sophisticated language, culture, farming practices, and civilization.

Like a lot of Native American groups, hospitality was a cornerstone of their cultural norms. Even though the Wampanoag  had suffered through a hellish epidemic for the five years before the Pilgrims arrived and had lost a significant portion of their population – so many people had died that their society was hanging on by a thread — they still stepped up to the plate rather than let these strange white nincompoops who didn’t know how to feed themselves starve to death.


The Wampoanoag had spent the summer before teaching the Pilgrams (who were printers and other middleclass non-farmers back in Europe) how to plant crops and the other necessities of life. When the harvest came, the Wampoanoag came to celebrate the achievements of these struggling colonists. They brought lots of food to the Pilgrims to supplement the meager rations the English were going to have to get by on. An eyewitness to the event wrote that the leader of the Wampanoag, a man named Massasoit, personally gave the Pilgrims no less than five deer. The locals then spent three days making merry with their new neighbors.

first thanksgiving

So, how did the Pilgrims and their descendants thank the natives who had saved their lives? They stole their lands and hassled them for decades before the Wampoanoag and other natives fought back in , King Philip’s War (1675–1676). This war “resulted in the deaths of 40 percent of the tribe. Most of the male survivors were sold into slavery in Bermuda or the West Indies. Many women and children were enslaved in New England.” The Womoanoag language was deliberately eradicated, and the culture of the people was almost destroyed. It came within a hair of genocide, which is exactly what happened to the now extinct Massachusetts people.

This is why Native Americans consider Thanksgiving a Day of Mourning.

And it isn’t like non-native Americans gotten any better at expressing our gratitude. A lot of us claim a “Cherokee grandmother” but Native peoples are still being treated like crap. The latest arsenic icing on the cowpie is the Dakota Access Pipeline that the coal and gas company Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) are running through the Standing Rock Native American Reservation, which is a Hunkpapa Lakota and Yanktonai Dakota Native American reservation stretching across the US states of North Dakota and South Dakota.


This has the people living on the reservation justifiably upset.

In March and April 2016 the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation asked the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a formal Environmental Impact Assessment and issue an Environmental Impact Statement. In July, however, the Army Corps of Engineers approved the water crossing permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline under a “fast track” option, and construction of the disputed section of pipeline continued. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed suit against the Corps of Engineers, accusing the agency of violating the National Historic Preservation Act and other laws … On September 3, 2016 the Dakota Access Pipeline brought in a private security firm when the company used bulldozers to dig up part of the pipeline route that contained possible Native graves and burial artifacts; it was subject to a pending injunction motion. The bulldozers arrived within a day after the tribe filed legal action. Energy Transfer bulldozers cut a two-mile (3200 m) long, 150-foot (45 m) wide path through the contested area. When unarmed protesters crossed the perimeter fence to stop the bulldozers, the guards used pepper spray and guard dogs to attack … On November 14, the The Army Corps of Engineers said it needed more time to study the impact of the plan.

DakotaAccessNDSioux burial site


Although there is an injunction and the Army Corps of Engineers say they need to asses the environmental impact further, the greedy monster of Energy Transfer Partners just keep on bulldozing through sacred ground. Their hired thugs are attacking the protestors with water-cannons, rubber bullets, teargas, pepper spray, and concussion grenades.

dog on DAP protesters

noDAP watercannons

no DAP protesters teargas



As this atrocity happens, the US government just stands by twiddling its thumbs and Obama was too busy pardoning turkeys today to bother with saving Native American lands and water. So far, the only high profile official to defend the protests has been senator Bernie Sanders. Meanwhile, some bigwig GOP officials in North Dakota — Sen. John Hoeven, Rep. Kevin Cramer and Gov. Jack Dalrymple — are shrieking at Obama to approve the pipeline ASAP.

Can you imagine those silly Injuns’ thinking they can control the land they live on when white people stand to make a quick buck??

Fortunately, there is some things you can do to help the protesters and Native Americans living in Standing Rock. Jezebel helpfully complied this list:

You can give money that will be used for “legal, sanitary and emergency purposes” here or here. You can find a list of organizations that are helping collect supplies to help get protesters through the winter here. If you, like a lot of people, don’t have money, you can contribute in other ways: sign the petition, call the office of North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple at (701) 328-2200 and tell them you do not support the pipeline and will not stand for the abuse of protesters, call Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier at (701) 667-3330 and express your outrage at his violent treatment of citizens exercising their right to protest under the First Amendment, call the Army Corps of Engineers at (202) 761-5903 and ask them revoke the DAPL permit, sign a petition, and endlessly harass the Energy Transfer executives by voicing your disapproval. Here are some of their emails and phone numbers, courtesy of The Nation, to help get you started:

 Energy Transfer Partners

 Energy Transfer Partners

Lee Hanse, executive vice president: (210) 403-6455,

Glenn Emery, vice president: (210) 403-6762,

Michael Cliff Waters, lead analyst: (713) 989-2404

Enough is enough. Show your thanksgiving by helping the Natives the way they helped European immigrants back in the 17th century.



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