Long before Cherokee Chief John Ross marched his Black slaves on the Trail of Tears heading west. Long before Native Americans fought with Confederates to keep the institution of slavery alive. Long before The Five Civilized Tribes were deeply committed to slavery, Blacks celebrated the end harvest season known as Thanksgiving.
The first slaves from Africa arrived on what’s now American soil in 1619, and by 1621, Pilgrims started celebrating the end of harvest season. Pilgrims’ advancement in this new world was made possible by attaining education and life-sustaining gifts from those who knew the land best. The Wampanoag Tribe is credited with helping Pilgrims survive through the first two winters.
Why the Native Americans assisted a savage group of people that arrived with a distinct group of subjugated people is beyond me. Later, these same Pilgrims would slowly erode their dependent, platonic relationship with the tribes, thus leading to Pilgrim’s enslavement of Native Americans as well. For 150 years Black slaves and Indian slaves would share the same fate. As more and more African slaves were sold to Europeans and brought to the new America, Native American slavery dwindled, becoming obsolete. While Black slaves were unable to break free of negative white stereotypes used to educate the masses on why Blacks were divinely born to become subjugated, these same whites started to see Native Americans from a humane perspective. As the complexion of Native Americans became lighter and lighter, the tribes fought ferociously to be seen as civilized by their previous captors.
By the 19th century, Native Americans would be fully entrenched into the institution of American racial slavery. By 1860, Black American slaves accounted for about 15 percent of The Five Major Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole). Slaves helped Native Americans move west, resettle and rebuild Indian nations. Native Americans believed in the institution of slavery so much that they fought alongside Confederates to keep slavery alive and had to be given exclusionary treaties to end slavery, which they tried to continue past emancipation.
In October 1863, months after signing the Emancipation Proclamation earlier in the year, President Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation to officially celebrate Thanksgiving nationally as a holiday. Thanksgiving has historically been celebrated by Black American slaves and Freedmen after emancipation. Thanksgiving for slaves marked the end of a tumultuous harvest season but it was a time family could gather and rejoice in each other’s company. Slave owners handed out passes allowing captives to travel and see family members no longer in proximity. It was also the first holiday Freedmen celebrated after Lincoln’s signing of The Emancipation Proclamation. Confederates dismissed the new national holiday as abolitionist Yankee nonsense. These same racist Confederates didn’t acknowledge Thanksgiving as a national holiday until they overthrew Reconstruction and the south rose again, giving these same bigots something to be grateful for.
Sorry for the long history lesson but I had to say all that to say who cares what a 5-dollar Indian thinks about Freedmen celebrating a historic holiday that anchors us back with our ancestors during slavery? It was good enough to celebrate when we worked on Native American plantations, and we damn sure won’t stop celebrating it now. Save your white tears for somebody else. I don’t care how many rappers make “woke” songs about this failed POC coalition. An artist known as Yello-Pain dropped a video called Happy Thanksgiving where he scolds, berates, and even murders a Black family celebrating Thanksgiving. In Dylan Roof fashion, the video captures Yello-Pain dressed in Pilgrim garb walking into a Black family home in the middle of prayer and massacring individuals with his raccoon mask-wearing accomplices. I wonder if Yello-Pain is aware of the past actions of Native Americans quelling slave revolts? Maybe he’s more connected with white kids going viral about thanksgiving and not how Freedman are being redlined from resources on reservations today.
I don’t care if Farrakhan invites The Chiefs to The Million Man March again. Putting a feather on a white head makes you no less racist than your southern counterparts. Black Americans have a lot to be thankful for and we will continue this tradition for every one of our ancestors who fought to escape bondage and be reunited with family.
Ibrahim Tanner is President of United Son & Daughters of Freedman Indianapolis Branch, @ibrahimtanner1 email@example.com
This article was originally published on Medium. It is reposted here with the permission of the author.
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