It's about gratitude and giving thanks, not beating yourself up over the what-they-did-to-the-Natives narrative. Especially since they were pretty awful, too. Especially to each other.
Only the Regressive Left could take issue with a holiday promoting arguably the most sublime, uplifting, most selfless of human virtues - gratitude.
Regressive Lefties frown on Thanksgiving; they live in a world much darker than ours; their sworn enemies are humor and fun. You can’t even enjoy your dinner because they find fault with everything on the table.
They’ll claim white supremacy is as baked into the social structure as the pumpkin in your Thanksgiving dessert (Heads up: pumpkin spice is an emblem of white privilege).
And of course there’s their obsession with Native conquest.
We all know the first Thanksgiving story is a highly sanitized version of a much darker history that ended very poorly for the existing inhabitants.
Howevermuch the original dinner party guests may have gotten along with each other with a few ground rules (‘Thou shalt not bring up the heretical new version of Our Lord’s Bible the King is working on back in England or there shalt be another Hundred Years War. Nor shalt the young men try and slip the roasted eel down thy sister’s dress”), felicitous feelings deteriorated soon after and hundreds of years of genocide and mass buffalo destruction ensued.
I think we can all agree that was an especially embarrassing development in European history, coming as we were off of our very most vicious phase, the late medieval period. Not exactly our finest moment.
But still: Thanksgiving is needed more than ever at a time when gratitude is one of the few demonstrated, scientifically-backed responses to hardship, depression, stress, and difficult times that actually makes us feel better.
Instead of cavilling about how the Indigenous were treated by the new settlers, we can be grateful for what we have today, and work to be better humans than we’ve been. Even if we failed the original Thanksgiving mission about as badly as can be imagined.
So, too, can the descendants of yesterday’s Natives self-reflect. Because their ancestors weren’t exactly peaceful little angels themselves.
It’s not 1621 anymore…thank God(s)!
We’re not slaughtering Natives for fun and profit like our ancestors. In Canada, we move slowly toward reconciliation with the First Nations, Metis and Inuit. In the U.S., whole chunks of land in many states are set aside for Indian reservations and the Natives are left alone (finally!) to govern themselves.
‘Progressives’ should acknowledge the injustices of the past and work together to help those descended from the original victims without turning a holiday that takes the focus off our own narcissistic selves for just one friggin’ evening a year, fer Goddess’s sake, and turn into a political nightmare. Enough already with the hoary moral flagellation.
At a time when others may have a helluva lot less to be thankful for than years past, we need to recognize our blessings, however great or small.
This includes the Indigenous, too.
Let’s move beyond the absurdity of the sinlessly-conceived holiday and recognize pretty much anything humans ever endeavored was almost always accomplished with mindless violence and slaughter. C’mon, Abel couldn’t even sacrifice his sheep without getting murdered. By his own brother.
It wasn’t exactly Apocalypto before Columbus, but neither was it Pocahontas.
There aren’t many books detailing how vicious pre-Columbian humanity was, but a classic in the field is Lawrence Keeley’s War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage, and a more comprehensive global history of human suckage is Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.
The first details not exactly the finest moments of Indigenous people, everywhere, when they had only each other to slaughter, mutilate, rape, torture, enslave and, occasionally, cannibalize, and the second details how pre-state societies were overall far more violent than we are today. How pre-Columbian Mexico was a dangerous place with a 5% murder rate, but only about a third to a fifth as violent as many of its neighbors.
If a mad time machine inventor wanted to drop you in either a hunter-gatherer society or an ancient civilized one, pick the latter. Even it it’s bloody ratbastards like the Romans, your risk of dying a violent death is only 2.7 percent, but 13.4 percent in the woods or on the plains with the locals. Those archaeological figures are based on 900 Native skeletons from the top of Canada to South America, all pre-Columbian.
This isn’t ‘whataboutism’, this is historical honesty. This is about recognizing that what happened four hundred years ago happened everywhere, in one capacity or another, for nearly half a million years at least. The world’s oldest murder victim would be 430,000 years old today if some asshole hadn’t whacked him upside the head with a blunt weapon.
Native societies today have a much lower violent trauma and murder rate than they did before the arrival of You-Know-Who.
I’m not justifying, excusing, or nullifying any horrors visited upon the Indigenous by Europeans. We stand accused: We sucked. But so did Indigenous people, and today everyone’s got something to be thankful for, this year, right now, no matter who they are. Natives can be grateful we’re not still trying to kill them all off (or ‘kill the Indian’ anymore in residential schools), but just as much, they can be grateful they no longer have to fear each other: The hideous cruelties inflicted by the most warlike Native tribes around them including the Apaches, the Seminoles, the Iroquois, the Comanches, the Plains Indians and others.
Just to put things in perspective, according to Keeley’s book, raiding other settlements has been one of history’s most time-dishonored methods for effectively reducing the land population of one’s Indigenous resource competitors. Whether it was the Bering Straits Eskimos attacking villages at dawn while everyone was asleep, or British Columbia’s Chilcotins killing everyone in the village for their food, or the relentless murderous hate-on Quebec’s Cree had for the Inuit, life was as brutal and tenuous for Native tribes living near other Native tribes as it was for the palefaces who arrived centuries later.
Prehistoric burials in central Washington state reveal projectile points embedded in skeletons, believed to have been implanted there by foreigners for 1,500 years. And if you think South Side Chicago is a dangerous ‘hood, what’s now central Illinois contained ancient human remains of which 16% were clear victims of violent deaths. Keeley notes the pre-Columbian murder rate there was 1,400 times higher than that of modern Britain and about 70 times that of the United States in 1980.
And massacres? Well there’s South Dakota’s not-so-famous Crow Creek debacle, a mass grave of 500 men, women and children, mutilated, scalped, murdered, and left to be eaten by scavengers before their enemies finally piled them all into a hole and buried them. This is like 150 years before the Italian’s galleons. Northern Canada’s Dogribs, who were pretty damn fed up with the Yellowknife band’s chronic raiding shit, wiped out a Yellowknife camp with the intent to get every last one of those murderous bastards. They missed a few, but the Yellowknifes never recovered and the few survivors were absorbed by other bands.
The Kutchin, elsewhere, intentionally left one Mackenzie Eskimo alive during their genocidal spree, so he could warn any other humans he met not to fuck with the Kutchin.
Every evil that Europeans have visited upon each other, the Indigenous everywhere have done likewise. That goes for the Asians, the South Americans, the Africans (those inveterate slave traders!), the Pacific Islanders, the Papua New Guineans, and just about everyone else. There were a very, very small handful of tribal humans in a few parts of the world who weren’t plotting raids and genocide every spare minute, but only because they were so isolated they didn’t have any neighbors.
We don’t suck as much, but we do steal cars
Today’s Natives can be quite thankful they will never witness the Comanches roasting their loved ones alive, or be raped, enslaved, or their hearts gouged out by the Aztecs, or be displaced by the Chippewa as happened to the Sioux in a pre-Columbian Trail of Tears tale. Nor will any Natives today suffer death by torture over several days as practiced by the Iroquois over any warriors unlucky enough to a) Lose a battle to the Iroquois and b) Survive long enough to be captured.
Don’t let progressives tell you this shit didn’t happen until the white man showed up, and they learned it all from us; they did not. They invented this shit all on their own, without any training from Europeans. Or space aliens.
If North American virtue-signalling land acknowledgements demanded as much honesty from the Indigenous as they require of white people they’d read something like this:
Today’s Europeans and their descendants can remember that we don’t suck nearly as badly as we did just a few hundred years ago when we believed the only good Indian was a dead Indian. We can remind ourselves that even though Natives did a lot of the shit we did back in the day, it in no way excuses what we visited upon the New World, especially as we were supposed to be all enlightened and shit with Christianity. Given how brutal the fifteenth century was back home, spearheaded and administered by so-called men of God, seventeenth-century Europeans had no goddamn business judging the Indians.
But humans really are alike. We will always steal each other’s stuff. Which is why you get to drive your new car off the dealer’s parking lot into your driveway, where it stays for maybe fifteen minutes until it gets jacked.
I’m thankful this year I don’t own a car.
Perhaps, as we sit down with our loved ones tomorrow, even the ones we can’t stand, maybe, after saying grace, we should present the family with a list of words and phrases thou shalt not use or utter so as not to ignite yet another Hundred Years War over the sweet potatoes.
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