This Thanksgiving Find the Real History About This Holiday

Newsletter 2: To Destroy the Pilgrim Mythology

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November 19, 2018

Dear friends,

Greetings from The Red Nation. (See upcoming events at the end of this email.)

This Thursday is Thanksgiving, a settler holiday and a national origin story washed in horrific violence. Despite the common trope that the United States is “a nation of immigrants,” the history of the first Thanksgiving suggests otherwise. Immigrants come to a foreign land to become naturalized within the existing society. The pilgrims, on the other hand, who departed the Mayflower and founded Plymouth Plantation in 1620, didn’t come to be integrated into the existing Indigenous social order—they came to replace it. In 1637, after the slaughter of more than 700 Pequot women, children, and men, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, William Bradford, declared the settlers’ first Thanksgiving, “in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.” The massacre, and its commemoration, set the tone for what was to come: the creation of a nation of colonizers.

Instead of celebrating genocide, The Red Nation invites you to break bread with us in Albuquerque this Thursday at the Sundowner Community Center for a “No Thanks, No Giving” potluck and teach-in. Bring a plate to share. Presentations will focus on understanding the real history of Thanksgiving; trans rights, ending migrant detention, and abolishing ICE; and making our movements more inclusive and open to youth organizers. As temperatures get colder, our relatives on the street face increased danger. Instead of celebrating the consumer holiday, Black Friday, on November 23 from 12-5 PM we will also be hosting a “Red Friday” donation drive at the Sundowner Community Center as part of our #NoDeadNatives campaign. Also, stop by for panels and workshops on ending bordertown violence, anti-capitalism and Indigenous resistance, and updates on the movement to protect Greater Chaco.

“No Thanks, No Giving” was inspired by the National Day of Mourning, an event that Melanie Yazzie and I were invited to speak at on behalf of The Red Nation last year. What we witnessed was beauty and power—thousands of relatives and comrades marching to remember the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. Each year, Moonanum James, a Wampanoag co-leader of the United American Indians of New England (UAINE), who organizes the event, tells the history (listen to his whole speech here):

The pilgrims did not find an empty land any more than Columbus “discovered” anything. Every inch of this land is Indian land. The pilgrims (who did not even call themselves pilgrims) did not come here seeking religious freedom; they already had that in Holland. They came here as part of a commercial venture. They introduced sexism, racism, anti-lesbian and gay bigotry, jails, and the class system to these shores. One of the very first things they did when they arrived on Cape Cod—before they even made it to Plymouth—was to rob Wampanoag graves at Corn Hill and steal as much of the Indians’ winter provisions as they were able to carry. They were no better than any other group of Europeans when it came to their treatment of the Indigenous peoples here. And no, they did not even land at that sacred shrine down the hill called Plymouth Rock, a monument to racism and oppression.

According to James, the National Day of Mourning was created “to destroy the Pilgrim mythology.” On the first day of mourning in 1970, Indigenous protesters buried Plymouth Rock—not once, but twice—and boarded a Mayflower replica. The Union Jack was torn from the mast and replaced by the same flag that flew over Alcatraz Island liberated by Red Power activists in 1969. On the eastern shores of Turtle Island the Wampanoag, the People of the First Light, commemorate the genocide and the theft of the continent at ground zero with a day of mourning. On the western shore, at Alcatraz Island, the dawn of a militant era or Red Power protest, Indigenous peoples hold a sunrise ceremony to celebrate the Red Dawn of militant Indigenous resistance. And in Albuquerque we join our relatives and our comrades to mourn and to resist.

This Thursday, as millions open their homes to share food with relatives and friends, an army waits in the south to keep people out of a country it stole. Last Wednesday, Defense Secretary James Mattis gave a history lesson about securing the U.S. border. Little more than a century ago, he said, President Woodrow Wilson sent troops south to crush Pancho Villa’s northern revolutionary Indigenous and peasant army. The last four presidents had also sent the military to the border, this time against the defenseless. Many of them are Indigenous who are not chasing the “American dream” but fleeing an American nightmare created in their own countries, such as in Honduras and Guatemala. “There’s nothing new under the sun,” Mattis told a reporter, defending Trump’s recent deployment of more than 5,900 combat troops against an anticipated caravan of thousands of Honduran asylum-seekers. (Our comrade Sarah Knopp recently visited the militarized zone. Read her report here.)

It was also little more than a century ago that President Wilson, an admirer of the Ku Klux Klan, re-segregated the civil service—positions consistent with his foreign policy, which included the military invasions of Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua. And Trump and Wilson, separated only by a century, are united with other administrations, as Mattis pointed out, by unfettered violence towards humble people. Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun.

This history comes to us matter-of-factly, not by leftwing historians but from the mouths of those in power who have a solid grasp of history. From them comes arrogance where there should be shame. A shred of humanity undermines their purpose.


It is not enough to talk only of borders. Empire reaches beyond them. Trump, like those before him, threatens embargo against countries that do not bow to U.S. dominance. Last September, at the UN he proudly invoked this policy by name—the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. The UN General Assembly, which convened in Trump’s home town, New York City, burst into laughter when the president took the podium. Trump claimed to have done more than any other U.S. president. The world jeered at the bumbling tyrant. Bolivia’s first Indigenous President, Evo Morales, a former coca farmer and an Indigenous Aymara socialist, condemned Trump and U.S. foreign policy at the UN Security Council. He laid out the history from U.S. intervention in Iran, Syria, and Libya and the threat of military intervention in Venezuela; to “illegally declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel”; to separating families and putting children in cages at the border. “I would like to inform the Council that the United States is not interested in democracy,” Morales said while looking Trump in the eye. “It is not interested in human rights and justice.”

But Trump is not alone. His Democratic opponent in the 2016 elections, Hilary Clinton, the former Secretary of State in Obama’s administration, backed a military coup in Honduras in 2009 to oust democratically-elected Manuel Zelaya. The regime has been assassinating hundreds of Indigenous and environmental activists ever since. Berta Cáceras, an Indigenous leader who opposed a hydroelectric dam and who was murdered in 2015, is one of the most prominent victims. The U.S. military had trained two of her accused killers, in places such as the School of the Americas, at Fort Benning, Georgia, which also trained hundreds of Latin American officers who later committed atrocities in their own countries. 

Guns and money easily flow across borders, a privilege denied to those escaping the harsh realities of the Monroe Doctrine and the pilgrim legacy.

Appalled by this cruelty,  there was an historic turnout for the midterm elections. Many cast ballots for Democrats because the candidates embraced the slogan “abolish ICE.” ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) was created under the 2001 PATRIOT Act and has become the domestic rifle butt of the U.S. “war on terror,” terrorizing people made “illegal” by colonial immigration policy. Democrats rode the wave of popular indignation against La Migra, which has increased jackbooted raids on homes and workplaces. Once elected, however, Democrats turned against their base, abandoning efforts to abolish ICE. Trump seemed to reward the opportunism by backing Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House. Pelosi is the self-appointed leader of “the resistance” against Trump and Republicans. As Democrats gained more power this election on the backs of grassroots organizers, Pelosi vowed not to reverse the authoritarian turn but to embrace it by finding “common ground” with the extreme right that is pushing an anti-immigrant agenda.


While elected leaders bow to the money and gun people, Indigenous people are leading the resistance. California is burning and there is still no credible climate plan—to keep the leading cause of global warming, carbon fuels, in the ground. While the IPCC has given us twelve years, we can already see the effects of climate change in how it threatens our water systems. Last Friday in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a meeting was held at Hotel Santa Fe Hacienda and Spa in Santa Fe, New Mexico to auction off precious freshwater to the fracking industry. Dozens of Water Protectors and Land Defenders protested outside chanting, “We won’t drink your fracking water!” Nicolás Cruz, a Red Nation member, wrote this excellent report on the action here. 

The New Mexico fracking industry taps into the Permian Basin, which is currently producing more oil than all nations in the world except Saudia Arabia and Russia. Humble people of the earth are facing Goliath. That’s why we are calling on all Water Protectors, Land Defenders, and Warriors to halt the ongoing colonial land grab. On December 5, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will be auctioning Indigenous land online at EnergyNet for as little as two dollars an acre for oil and gas development. They’re stealing our land and not a single elected official is standing in the way. Join us on December 5 at the Santa Fe BLM offices to shut down the lease sales and halt the ongoing theft of Indigenous lands in the Tri-Chapter area of the Navajo Nation, which is within the Greater Chaco Landscape. There is no time to waste. We need our warriors.

We cannot wait for elected officials to do what only mass movements can do. Only we can destroy the pilgrim mythology that imperils our planet. 


As we wrote in our Principles of Unity: “Like our hearts, our politics are down and to the left. And because we are the ‘five-fingered ones,’ our fists are the size of our hearts. We raise our fists to lift the hearts of our people. We give everything and take nothing for ourselves.”

We raise our fists against the destroyers, who have taken everything from us. But we still have our hearts. Raise them with us.

Solidarity forever,



11/22: No Thanks No Giving Community Forum & Teach-in. Sundowner Community Center. Albuquerque, NM.

11/23: Red Friday Winter Drive & Workshop. Sundowner Community Center. Albuquerque, NM.

11/29: Red Power Revolution Speaker Series: Warrior Women Film Screening @ 5 PM. George Pearl Auditorium. University of New Mexico. Albuquerque, NM.

12/5: BLM Lease Sale Protest & Action. NM State Office BLM. Santa Fe, NM.

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