November 24, 2011

42nd National Day of Mourning

First Thanksgiving an idyllic myth, Native Americans say

By Mike ClaryAs tens of millions of Americans prepare to stuff themselves silly Thursday to mark one of the year's major holidays, some Native Americans see the day as an idyllic myth meant to cloak outrageous acts of cultural imperialism.

"I don't think most people understand what they are celebrating," said Cherokee descendant Danielle Tschuschke, 19, who heads a Native American student group at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. "It is not a happy day for everyone."

Some Indian tribes around the nation mark the day as Un-Thanksgiving. In Massachusetts, where the Wampanoag greeted the colonists with tips on cold weather survival, the United American Indians of New England will hold its 42nd annual National Day of Mourning. The day is designed to "shatter the untrue glass image of the Pilgrims and the unjust system based on racism, sexism, homophobia and war."

About 100 FAU students learned that reality in a bait-and-switch history lesson last week sponsored by the Multi-Cultural Program. At the door of the student union meeting room, students lured in by the promise of a free Thanksgiving dinner were asked to sign what organizer Kristina Fritz said was a "food waiver." In fact, the waiver was a four-page document, written in an obscure Indian language, in which the signers gave up their property rights.

Once that was done, Fritz explained what each had signed. "There is a lot of sorrow in this holiday for Native Americans," she said, before adding, "and by the way there is no food."

When the students groaned, Fritz asked them how they felt. "Bamboozled," said Simone Hyman, 21, of Fort Lauderdale.
Comment:  Complaints about the "idyllic myth" of Thanksgiving are old hat by now. Which is why I haven't posted many this year.

But the "bait-and-switch history lesson" is an interesting experiment worth reporting on. As with many thought experiments, it helps make the historical problemz obvious to non-Indians.

For more on the subject, see Addams Family Values Thanksgiving and 41st National Day of Mourning.

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