Thursday, November 22

A Day To Give Thanks?

The following is a piece written by Ward Churchill on Thanksgiving and the genocide of Native Americans it celebrates. Ward Churchill is a prominent political professor at the University of Colorado who has faced a large amount of political persecution being the central target of neo-conservative witchunt against professors in Universities who speak out and challenge the ruling classes version of history and current events. Horowitz, who believes black people are indebted to America for slavery, once said that there is one Ward Churchill but there are many like him all over the country and that they must all be denied tenure and essentially fired, as Ward Churchill has been. With that said, Churchill is in my view, a symbol of academic dissent against the ruling class. His piece basically addresses everything that is important to remember as you enjoy your Thankstaking.

Thanksgiving is the day the United States celebrates the fact that the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony successfully avoided starvation during the winter of 1620-21.

But from an American Indian perspective, what is it we're supposed to be so thankful for?

Does anyone really expect us to give thanks for the fact that soon after the Pilgrim Fathers regained their strength, they set out to dispossess and exterminate the very Indians who had fed them that first winter?

Are we to express our gratitude for the colonists' 1637 massacre of the Pequots at Mystic, Conn., or their rhetoric justifying the butchery by comparing Indians to "rats and mice and swarms of lice"?

Or should we be joyous about the endless series of similar slaughters that followed: at St. Francis (1759), Horseshoe Bend (1814), Bad Axe (1833), Blue Water (1854), Sand Creek (1864), Marias River (1870), Camp Robinson (1878) and Wounded Knee (1890), to name only the worst?

Should we be thankful for the scalp bounties paid by every English colony -- as well as every U.S. state and territory in the lower 48 -- for proof of the deaths of individual Indians, including women and children?

How might we best show our appreciation of the order issued by Lord Jeffrey Amherst in 1763, requiring smallpox-infested items be given as gifts to the Ottawas so that "we might extirpate this execrable race"?

Is it reasonable to assume that we might be jubilant that our overall population, numbering perhaps 15 million at the outset of the European invasion, was reduced to less than a quarter-million by 1890?

Maybe we should be glad the "peaceful settlers" didn't kill the rest of us outright. But they didn't really need to, did they? By 1900, they already had 98 percent of our land. The remaining Indians were simply dumped in the mostly arid and unwanted locales, where it was confidently predicted that we'd shortly die off altogether, out of sight and mind of the settler society.

We haven't died off yet, but we comprise far and away the most impoverished, malnourished and disease-ridden population on the continent today. Life expectancy on many reservations is about 50 years; that of Euroamericans more than 75.

We've also endured a pattern of cultural genocide during the 20th century. Our children were processed for generations through government boarding schools designed to "kill the Indian" in every child's consciousness and to replace Native traditions with a "more enlightened" Euroamerican set of values and understandings.

Should we feel grateful for the disastrous self-concept thereby fostered within our kids?

Are we to be thankful that their self-esteem is still degraded every day on cable television by a constant bombardment of recycled Hollywood Westerns and television segments presenting Indians as absurd and utterly dehumanized caricatures?

Should we tell our children to find pride in the sorts of insults to which we are subjected to as a matter of course: Tumbleweeds cartoons, for instance, or the presence of Chief Wahoo and the Redskins in professional sports?

Does anybody really believe we should feel honored by such things, or by place names like Squaw Valley and Squaw Peak? "Squaw," after all, is the Onondaga word for female genitalia. The derogatory effect on Native women should be quite clear.

About three-quarters of all adult Indians suffer alcoholism and/or other forms of substance abuse. This is not a "genetic condition." It is a desperate, collective attempt to escape our horrible reality since "America's Triumph."

It's no mystery why Indians don't observe Thanksgiving. The real question is why do you feast rather than fast on what should be a national day of mourning and atonement.

Before digging into your turkey and dressing on Nov. 23, you might wish to glance in a mirror and see if you can come up with an answer.


Renegade Eye said...

Ward Churchill fought militarily against the Sandinistas and is a 9/11 conspiracy type. He is what the left doesn't need.

The American Indian Movement disassociate themselves from him.

I don't understand his support.

Dave Marlow said...

I think this is a weakness of the left; we often take things to a level that they do not need to go to. Clearly the treatment of the Native Americans was abominable, perhaps genocidal. However, we ought to view Thanksgiving as what it has come to represent; a time to remember and count our blessings. Even if the American consumer focuses very little on this, I am of the belief that simply having that sort of message around is important.

Moreover, the original Thanksgiving feast emerged out of compromise and camaraderie. The Native Americans were stabbed in the back by the descendants of those who they saved (granted, it is something of an ethicist assumption, given that certain tribes suffered the crimes of the later colonists while others did not), but I think remembering a time when men and women were able to set aside their differences, even for a brief time, has merit.

LeftyHenry said...

Hmm I didn't know that bout Ward Churchill. Thanks for pointing that out Ren, do you have any links which I can read up on?

Obviously Ward isn't a revolutionary socialist, but he is someone that is being attacked by the ruling class for his politics. Also, the reason I posted this was not so much about Churchill's character as it is about discussing the nature of Thanksgiving

Guerrilla22 said...

Ward Churchill is not a 9/11 conspiracy nut, if you had actually read his essay on 9/11 you'd know that. Nor did he fight militarily against the Sandinistas, he spent some time working with the Miskito Indians, but that was after the the Sandinistas had been voted out of office.

Red Guard Camp said...

Renegade eye:
Do you even know what you are talking about? The obvious answer is no.

Ward Churchill is not a conspiracy type. This is evident from a glance through his books. Have you ever read his views on 9-11? Being that you are so concerned with "Christian Fascism" and the "Right's attack on academia," one would assume that you are familar with the essay, 'Some People Push Back?' Afterall, I did get him fired. I would ask you if you have ever read it, but I already know the answer.

He did fight against the Sandinistas. However, this doesn't necessarily contradict his self proclaimed "indigenist" politics.

Do you know anything about the American Indian Movement? There isn't just one. More importantly, do you know anything about their respective politics- their revolutionary credentials? Why do you assume that they are an authority on Ward Churchill or revolutionary politics?

I would be really interested in your answers to my above questions. If you are unable to answer them, allow me to ask two more:

Why are you commenting on things that you have know clue about? Why are you acting counter to Maoism?

"No investigation, no right to speak." It appears that you have no right to speak on these issues.