American traditions like Thanksgiving should not be broken because of latter day spin
No one is innocent in the ongoing debate about who killed who, who discovered what and who stole what here in America. The traditions of Thanksgiving should not be dragged into the narrow-focused historical spin as were the civil war and Christopher Columbus. How about we respect history, whether we agree with it or not, understand it, and leave it for future generations to understand honestly and without partisan spin?
By Ray Hanania
Who knows who was here first when the north American continent formed? Based on my studies in Anthropology at Northern Illinois University, and politics at the University of Illinois at Circle, it was pretty clear the first people to settle North America were Neanderthals who lived in Eurasia until about 40,000 years ago.
The Neanderthals were wiped out, massacred, by Homo Sapiens (our ancestors). Today, “Neanderthal” is a pejorative word, but because Neanderthals don’t really exist anymore, no one seems to care.
Neanderthals were followed by “Paleo-Indians” — Paleo, a Greek word meaning “ancient.” These ancient “Indian” or “aboriginal” peoples, including a group called the “Clovis” people, migrated from what we know as Africa and East Asia more than 25,000 years ago coming down from the north of the continent.
Now, you can be racist and condemn Neanderthals as not being “human” if you want, to justify their massacre at the hands of the Native Americans. But I think we must put aside the racism and be objective when addressing the question of who “discovered” America, and who did what to whom?
I mention this significantly condensed history because it puts into context claims made against Columbus and European settlers who arrived here from Europe in the 15th Century and established “Thanksgiving.”
When does the clock start ticking when it comes to race, ethnicity or religion?
Today, people argue the Europeans subjugated the most recent “Native Americans,” which is true. But of course, we know that Native American tribes subjugated those peoples who were here before them.
Violent native tribes spread across the Americas and massacred their rivals, men, women and children in bloodied conflicts.
We must recognize all this in order to also confront the false accusations of racism made regarding Christopher Columbus, who discovered, for the Europeans, North America during his voyage in 1492.
What is the difference? Columbus and the people who followed did a better job of documenting their travels and achievements than the many waves of conquerors who preceded Columbus.
More than a hundred years after Columbus, the London Company, which was tasked with “colonizing” the Americas, established a colony of pilgrims in 1607 led by explorer John Smith. It was called “The Old Dominion” and later renamed “Virginia.” They mingled with the Powhatan peoples who came before them at the banks of the James River. They called this settlement Jamestown.
About 13 years later, John Smith founded another colony called Plymouth, in an area he called “New England” (Massachusetts). The 102 settlers, including 40 Protestant Separatists (who opposed the Church of England), arrived in 1620 on a merchant ship called the Mayflower. They called themselves “Saints” but later became known as “Pilgrims.” (Today the “Saints” are a violent street gang.)
Although they were good at communications and documenting their exploits, they faced famine and disease and conflict in this new settlement. Colonist John Rolfe married Pocahontas, the daughter of an Algonquin chieftain.
Eventually, in 1621, the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag natives there shared an “autumn harvest” and feast. It was called “Thanksgiving,” a word that was used many centuries before to describe similar gratitude for harvests.
But in the new America, colonized by the Europeans, Thanksgiving became an annual event, and in 1863, as President Abraham Lincoln tried to hold together the nation of descendants of the first European settlers who broke away from England’s control, declared Thanksgiving a National Holiday.
Now, I guess someone can argue that John Smith pilgrims eventually brutalized and stripped the natives who were here before them of their lands and their rights. It took more than a century before Native American rights would be respected in America.
The truth is those natives were no different than the Europeans. They all conquered someone before them.
When do we start the clock on conquest? Today’s Native Americans start it blasting Columbus. Those who exploit history for selfish politics, like Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, support that injustice.
Technically. Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable, championed by Lightfoot and African Americans captured and sold to European slave masters by African warlords, was a conqueror, too. DuSable settled in what became Chicago in 1778, married a Potawatomi native.
I don’t see anyone taking down DuSable statues, maybe because he became a naturalized Potawatomi citizen for economic reasons.
What we should do is respect history and explain and document it accurately and fairly.
The moral of this story is simple: When it comes to history, the Pen is mightier than the Sword.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter. A political analyst and CEO of Urban Strategies Group, Hanania’s opinion columns on mainstream issues are published in the Southwest News Newspaper Group in the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers. His Middle East columns are published in the Arab News. For more information on Ray Hanania visit www.Hanania.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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