The textbooks teach American children a very different version of some of the country’s most monumental events compared to what Native Americans actually experienced. At a young age, we are given the structure for what to celebrate. We are taught to celebrate a fantasy history that ignores and downplays the displacement and genocide of a people. Some of America’s most well-known and longest revered holidays are, then, nothing to celebrate at all for its roughly 5.2 million indigenous peoples.
America was not founded by Columbus — a corrupt man who condoned murder and rape, and whose own people wanted him jailed. Columbus never even set foot in North America. He actually “discovered” the Bahamas archipelago and then the island later named Hispaniola, now split into Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Here, cruelty and murder ensued, including Spaniards testing the sharpness of blades on Native people by cutting them in half. Infants were ripped from their mothers’ breasts by Spaniards, then thrown headfirst into large rocks.
To this day, Native Americans generally deplore the national holiday. Asked in an interview to describe their thoughts on Columbus, one termed the explorer “the first terrorist in America.”
“It always was weird to me to have that day off in celebration of somebody, like, we don’t have a day for Hitler, but it’s the same thing,” another participant said.
Thanksgiving was not a celebration of friendship and abundant harvest between the Wampanoag Native Americans and pilgrims. The relationship was built out of unease, developed into a coexisting agreement of sorts, shifted into distrust, with the pilgrims’ growing cruelty, greed, and arrogance, and ended with the two at war, from which the pilgrims rose victorious. There was one account of the Wampanoag and pilgrims sharing in a meal of wildfowl, deer, and shellfish.
When asked what some feel about Thanksgiving and its history in the same interview, words including “sadness,” “slaughter,” and “lies,” were used.
“It was a massacre. Puritans came and slaughtered them,” said another participant.
“They didn’t want to eat with a savage. They slaughtered millions of us. I don’t know why they call themselves Puritans.”
Jacqueline Keeler, a member of the Dineh Nation and Yankton Dakota Sioux, wrote an editorial about why she celebrates the holiday, but it’s not what you think.
Keeler celebrates being one of “a very select group of survivors.” She is a survivor of mass murder, forced relocation, theft of land, and various other injustices.
Independence Day is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, in which the Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies were recognized as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire. But for many Native Americans, it represents the loss of culture and land. And while Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence promised “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” there is a much-overlooked passage further down that said “the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”
“Any holiday that would refer to my people in such a repugnant, racist manner is certainly not worth celebrating,” said Simon Moya-Smith, a culture editor at Indian Country Today. “[July Fourth] is a day we celebrate our resiliency, our culture, our languages, our children and we mourn the millions — literally millions — of indigenous people who have died as a consequence of American imperialism.”
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