By Clyde Grubbs
In 1970, a committee of Mayflower descendants decided to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the landing of their ancestors in Plymouth;
They believed that their story of the First Thanksgiving was a true story and that the so-called First Thanksgiving story was worthy of celebration. They invited a representative of the Wampanoag people, the original people of southeastern Massachusetts. But they were shocked that the Wampanoag wanted to tell their own story, a story that busted the Pilgrim myth. For them the Plimouth Plantation was a land-stealing invasion. For the people who greet the dawn (Wampanoag) the settlers who arrived on the Mayflower were the first wave of a violent invasion that led to the near extinction of the Wampanoag through enslavement, wars, and missionary conquest. The story that has been told over and over again for four centuries is not true. It is a myth justifying conquest
I will be joining the “debunkers.” Hundreds of Native people and their allies will gather in Plymouth to mourn the violence that was the English colonization of the Massachusetts coast. This day of mourning will see many allies who have been organizing to “show up” for decades, recognizing that their promise to side with love and justice calls them to be present.
The myth of the freedom-loving Pilgrims has shaped and perpetuated white Christian nationalism. In this myth story, innocent sojourners came ashore, suffered a terrible winter, and after their harvest had a picnic to which they invited the original people of the land. This story creates the narrative that Europeans overcame a wilderness and brought civilization not only to the Massachusetts coast but across the continent from sea to shining sea. But the story of the First Thanksgiving is a fiction, and telling it perpetuates white supremacy.
Join in remembering and siding with justice on the hill overlooking Plymouth Harbor. Even if you can’t attend the ceremony, here are some resources to share in your faith communities.
DSA member Clyde Grubbs is a Unitarian Universalist minister currently serving a congregation in Canton, MA. His heritage is Texas Cherokee. Clyde has worked on many campaigns vital to Indigenous Americans, including the Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda and the effort to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.