Category Archives: Indigenous Sovereignty

Free Zapatista textbooks now available in English!

by , Intercontinental Cry

Put on your thinking caps because two of four Zapatista textbooks from last year’s widely popular escuelita (little school) have been translated to English.

For those who are not yet familiar, the Zapatista Escuelita (Zapatista little school), brought 1630 students from around the world to learn what it really means to be Zapatista. Contrary to what some might believe, there’s a lot more to the Zapatista than “smashing the state” or looking good doing it!

You can download the first two books, entitled, Autonomous Government I by clicking the corresponding linkd below. The remaining links will be posted here as they become available.

Autonomous Government I

Download now

Autonomous Government I

Autonomous Government II

Download now

Autonomous Gov II

Textbooks to follow

Participation of Women in Autonomous Government

(available no later than May 8th)

Participation of Women

Autonomous Resistance

(available no later than June 8th)

Autonomous Resistance

A Colonized Ally Meets a Decolonized Ally: This is What They Learn

From Lynn Gehl:

1. A colonized ally stands in the front.  A decolonized ally stands behind.

2. A colonized ally stands behind an oppressive patriarchy.  A decolonized ally stands behind women and children.

3. A colonized ally makes assumptions about the process.  A decolonized ally values there may be principles in the process they are not aware of.

4. A colonized ally wants knowledge now!  A decolonized ally values their own relationship to the knowledge.

5. A colonized ally finds an Indigenous token.  A decolonized ally is more objective in the process.

6. A colonized ally equates their money and hard work on the land as meaning land ownership.  A decolonized ally knows that land ownership is more about social hierarchy and privilege.

7. A colonized ally projects guilt.  A decolonized ally knows it is their work to do.

8. A colonized ally projects emotions.  A decolonized ally knows Indigenous people have too much to deal with already.

9. A colonized ally has no respect for Indigenous intellectuals.  A decolonized ally knows Indigenous people have their own intellectuals.

10. A colonized ally has no idea they need to decolonize.  A decolonized ally understands they have to continually decolonize.

11. A colonized ally has no idea of the concomitant realities of Indigenous oppression.  A decolonized ally understands the many, layered, and intersectional oppressions Indigenous people live under.

12. A colonized ally speaks for Indigenous people.  A decolonized ally listens.

13. A colonized ally takes on work an Indigenous person can do and is doing. A decolonized ally takes on other work that needs to be done.

14. A colonized ally makes things worse.  A decolonized ally understands.

15. A colonized ally says, “It is time to get over it.”  A decolonized ally realizes one’s relationship to the harm is subjective.

16. A colonized ally appropriates another nation’s Indigenous knowledge.  A decolonized ally does the hard work to uncover their own Indigenous knowledge.

17. A colonized ally will loath this truth offered.  A decolonized ally will recognize the hard work telling this truth is.

Additional ally resources are available here and on Unsettling America here.


Picture Lynn Gehl is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley.  She has a section 15 Charter challenge regarding the continued sex discrimination in The Indian Act, and is an outspoken critic of the Ontario Algonquin land claims and self-government process. She recently published a book entitled Anishinaabeg Stories: Featuring Petroglyphs, Petrographs, and Wampum Belts, and her second book, The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin of the Algonquin Land Claims Process, will be published in March 2014.  You can reach her at lynngehl@gmail.com and see more of her work at www.lynngehl.com.

“Colonization & Decolonization” by Zig-Zag translated into German!

decol zigzag germanIn response to Unsettling America’s call for translations, our comp@s at the Translation Collective have translated “Colonization & Decolonization” by Zig-Zag into German!

(The original English version is also available from our accomplices at Quiver Distro: read PDF | booklet PDF)

Kolonisierung und Dekolonisierung

von Zig-Zag

dekolonisierung – PDF

Ein Handbuch für indigene Befreiung im 21. Jahrhundert

Zum Gebrauch dieses Handbuchs

Dieses Handbuch ist in vier Teile gegliedert. Der erste Teil definiert Kolonialismus, seine Methoden und Geschichte bis heute (z.B. Invasion und Besetzung des Irak durch die USA). Der zweite Teil beschreibt im Detail die Effekte des Kolonialismus auf indigene Völker, einschließlich der soziologischen und individuellen Auswirkungen. Der dritte Teil untersucht das Konzept der Dekolonisierung, der vierte Teil diskutiert die Dekolonisierung in Nordamerika. Es wird erkennbar, dass die Befreiung der indigenen Völker in Nordamerika eng verbunden ist mit einem globalen Prozess des Widerstands und des Überlebens. Dieses Handbuch ist sowohl für den Selbstunterricht als auch für die Verwendung im Unterricht gedacht. Die [im Anhang] folgenden Stundenpläne können in der Schule genutzt oder angepasst werden.

“Wissen macht eine Person unfähig Sklave zu sein” – Frederick Douglas

Einleitung

“Befreiung ist die Aufgabe, die uns durch unsere Eroberung und Kolonisierung aufgezwungen wurde.” – Chinweizu, The West and the Rest of Us, Seite 33

Kolonialismus: Die Praxis, andere Länder und Territorien zum Zweck der Besiedlung und/oder der Ausbeutung von Ressourcen zu überfallen.

Wenn eine Invasionsmacht auf eine indigene Bevölkerung trifft, die eine Territorium bereits besetzt hält, wird Kolonialismus zum gewalttätigen Konflikt zwischen zwei feindlichen und entgegengesetzten Lebensweisen, von denen die eine der anderen ihren Willen aufzuzwingen sucht. Dies ist eine Standarddefinition des Krieges. Kolonisierung kann als Krieg um Territorium verstanden werden, der alle Mittel der Kriegsführung einbezieht: militärische, politische, ökonomische, psychologische, diplomatische, kulturelle, etc.

Cecil Rhodes, der britische Kolonialoffizier, nach dem Rhodesien benannt wurde (heute Zimbabwe), formulierte die Motive und Ziele des europäischen Kolonialismus im 19. Jahrhundert:

“Wir müssen neues Land auftun, wo wir auf einfache Weise an Rohstoffe kommen und zugleich die billige Sklavenarbeit ausbeuten können, die durch die Ureinwohner der Kolonien verfügbar ist. Die Kolonien würden ebenfalls einen Schuttplatz für die in unseren Fabriken produzierte überschüssige Ware bieten.”

Aufgrund seiner Geschichte und Kultur ist der europäische Kolonialismus durch Praktiken des Genozids gekennzeichnet, inklusive Vernichtungskriege, Massaker an Nicht-KombattantInnen, biologische Kriegsführung, Politik der verbrannten Erde (Zerstörung von Nahrung und Unterkunft). Andere Gräueltaten sind etwa die Folter von Gefangenen, Vergewaltigung und Versklavung der indigenen Bevölkerungen. Diese Taten wurden von einer rassistischen und patriarchalen Ideologie (z.B. Christentum und weißer Überlegenheitsglaube) angetrieben, von Gier und einem psychopathischen Verlangen zu töten, anderen Gewalt und Leid zuzufügen.

Psychopath n. Eine Person mit einer antisozialen Persönlichkeitsstörung, die sich in aggressivem, perversem, kriminellem oder amoralischem Verhalten ohne Mitgefühl oder Reue ausdrückt.” – American Heritage Dictionary, Seite 1415

Stufen des Kolonialismus

Methoden und Geschichte der Kolonisierung sind aufgrund vieler verschiedener Variablen (Geographie, Bevölkerungsdichte, Ressourcen, etc.) in jedem Fall einzigartig. Dennoch gibt es ein leicht erkennbares gemeinsames Muster. In den Amerikas, Afrika und Asien bestand die Kolonisierung im Allgemeinen aus vier Stufen: Aufklärung, Invasion, Besatzung und Assimilation.

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Decolonizing Pipeline Resistance

An Interview with Freda Huson

By Lee Veeraraghavan, Occupy.com

As the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline intensifies in the United States, the Canadian province of British Columbia faces similar battles of its own. Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, if approved, would transport diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to the Pacific Coast.

Fracked gas from the northeast of the province is also slated to be piped: Chevron-Apache’s Pacific Trails Pipeline, which some consider a “trail-blazer” for Northern Gateway, was slated to begin construction in 2013. After being delayed for a year, the construction on PTP has now begun – and the next phase of resistance is gearing up in response. One of the key battlegrounds will likely be the land of the Unis’tot’en, Bird Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

Multiple proposed pipelines, including Northern Gateway and Pacific Trails Pipeline, are slated to pass through the land of the Unis’tot’en – land that was never ceded to the Canadian state. The Unis’tot’en, however, have vowed to stop all pipelines, and built a cabin and pithouse on the right-of-way. They have also reinstated a traditional protocol to pass into their land, to keep surveyors for pipeline companies out. Performed on a bridge over Wedzin Kwah, the pristine Morice River, the protocol consists of five questions: Who are you, and where are you from? Why are you here? How long do you plan to stay? Do you work for government or industry that are destroying these lands? How will your visit benefit the Unis’tot’en people?

The protocol indexes an important shift in thinking on environmental issues: a shift that recognizes control is in the hands of indigenous communities. Mainstream environmental activism is often framed as an ethical imperative based on a bottom line determined by scientific discourse. An unfortunate effect is that this can pit environmental groups against the (often indigenous) communities most affected by environmental devastation.

And yet around the world indigenous peoples are leading movements that view ecology as a result of the adoption of local practices long suppressed by colonialism. The indigenous perspective is often silenced, though: their words passed over in favor of environmental scientists and activists. I recently had the opportunity to visit the Unis’tot’en Camp and interview Freda Huson, spokesperson for the Unis’tot’en.

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Unsetting America and Oshkimaadziig team up to archive Radio Against Global Ecocide

¡RAGE Presente! (RIP)Unsettling America has previously featured content from Radio Against Global Ecocide (RAGE), particularly their interview with Waziyatawin, but much to the dismay of the show’s listeners, its demise included the online archives of the show. Thankfully, we’ve teamed up with our friends at at Oshkimaadziig.org (Anishinabek Confederacy to Invoke Our Nationhood) to (re)archive the show. Although we took this action in order to assure the decolonization-related interviews were archived and accessible online, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to archive the entire show in its entirety! Here are a few we find most poignant:

Colonialism is alive and well (with Waziyatawin): Parts 1a, 2a, & 2b

Also from Waziyatawin & RAGE: Indigenous People & Revolution & Holocaust, Collapse, & Dispair

Related: Relationship with Salmon & other stories…

Interview with Ancestral Pride: Indigenous Land Defenders

Radio-BED sits down with Crow and Sacheen of Ancestral Pride for a necessary conversation on land defence, Idle No More, settler solidarity, nationhood and going home.

In this special report, Ancestral Pride schools listeners of all nations on the reality of the struggle for safety and self-determination and the importance of asserting and re-asserting Indigenous jurisdiction and authority over lands that have never been surrendered.

ancestralpride.ca

Support Spiritual Decolonization Training at Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp!

Help Anishinabek youth in Southern Ontario come together to receive elder-guided spiritual training on our path to decolonization!

ACTION (Anishinabek Confederacy to Invoke Our Nationhood) is a union of sovereign Anishinabe individuals, communities and allies of other nations who are restoring our Anishinabek institutions in assertion of our sovereignty on our collective territories.

We have established the Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp, a reclamation site on illegally occupied lands in what Ontario calls Awenda Provincial Park, at a traditional Anishinabek Council Rock where we have lit and preserved an Anishinabek Council Fire. This camp is a spiritual base camp for our program of re-establishing clan governance, inter-tribal agreements, and other forms of traditional society; counselling, land-based skills training, storytelling and ceremonial life; and prophecy teaching, decolonization workshops, and unity-building towards emancipation from illegal Canadian policies.

We also have a growing community of Anishinabek and brothers and sisters from other nations in Southern Ontario – mainly Toronto. We are asking for support funds to run a spiritual decolonization training program where Anishinabek can visit Oshkimaadziig, receive spiritual training from guides and elders, and develop a decolonization framework for future actions.

We are centered around the idea that national consciousness and decolonization efforts first need spiritual health and focus as a starting point.

This project is a small, but vitally important, step towards rebuilding indigenous governance and decolonizing part of Turtle Island. This is the first stage, guided by careful elder teachings and Anishinabek prophecy, of a much larger project we hope all nations will see a role in.

Since we founded the camp, our efforts have been noticed all over Turtle Island by indigenous and non-indigenous people. Indigenous-led decolonization, rooted in the reawakening of traditional governance and adapted to our current situation, will re-establish nation-to-nation relationships and work to end centuries of colonial genocide.

We want to expand the camp’s impact, and bring some of our programming to other communities in the region.

We would love to see you at one of our workshops – please help us grow this movement, for settlers, migrants and indigenous alike!

Click here to read more & support Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp…

Miigwetch!

You cant have your decolonized cake and eat from colonialism to…

From Ancestral Pride:

Four years ago some very loving and kind ladies I met online at the WTE Sept babies forum, heard I was having a very hard time with paying rent, buying food, and then celebrating Christmas. They rallied round and we got a food hamper delivery, Christmas presents, and money for presents too. Then my cousin and his wife gave me their Christmas hamper from our nation as well. Wow. My heart was over flowing and how blessed I felt that my kids had presents to open and we had a turkey to cook for baby Jesus, and therein lies a huge reason why we stopped christmas and just said no to the addiction that is cheap consumer goods in the name of a god we don’t believe in and who’s followers tried their very best to commit genocide on us.

The stress, the capitalism, the unsatisfied kids and us when it came present time and no one got what they were wishing for. The fact that Santa was way nicer to kids with rich parents and we are not Christians nor have we ever been. How is it we could celebrate the birth of Jesus, and celebrate a religion that not only harmed us through residential schools and molestation, but also colonized and conquered so many of the indigenous cultures in their own land? Millions died to make Christianity the world power it is today and it felt like the worst kind of hypocrisy to perpetuate this belief system into our children’s psyche any longer, in my spirit I just knew something didn’t ring true and I felt I was disrespecting not only Christians but my ancestors. We have a rich and living culture with our own times of feasting, gifting, and celebrating. So why were we celebrating Christmas? How come it was so important to keep up the status quo and make sure my kids sat on a fat old white guys lap and tell him their wishes? Hope mongers, sad fact is that most ndn kids will not even get close to what they hoped for, or need at Christmas time. It seemed awful to tell them Christmas miracles happened and then year after year they see the lie and fallacy of pretending to be happy. Christmas is a great big facade over the veneer of dominant culture. Why do so many get depressed over the holidays? Why do so many commit suicides over the holidays rather than any other time of the year? This is because society feeds us a commercial lie, a lie that Christmas miracles happen, that all our troubles will be fixed, that instant credit will relieve of us debt for the month so we can purchase unrealistic items that will be swiftly forgotten over the year. Christmas has never solved anyone’s problems and in fact can create such a debt that people pay it off until the next year.

Christmas is for white people and is a lie, you don’t ever see anyone in the commercials and the ads in the malls that look like us. In all the shows and the Christmas specials on TV there is never any mention of our people or what we suffered through. Or for that matter you never see a commercial with a happy “first nations” family looking super rich and buying each other the latest $1000 tablet like assholes. We are the forgotten and hated bastard children of a society that would rather we were not here to make them feel uncomfortable.

Growing up the way I did, I lost faith in santa really early. Living in Buffalo New York with my mother were some of the coldest winters I had experienced in both my life and of course in actual degrees. Getting a broken slinky placed on the TV because we had no tree and watching my mama fake hilarity with drugs to make herself feel better for having nothing left a lingering hatred and sadness that to this day still hurts my little girl heart. I remember spending a Christmas with my dad and other mother. He told me before I went to bed about solstice and while I lay in bed and cried for my sisters and mama it was comforting to think of my ancestors dancing and singing by the firelight on the longest night of the year, celebrating something that was OURS and for us.

Giving it up was easy… for us. Not so much for the children, we still celebrate on the solstice and have food, presents, and family time but I know it is hard on them because we are “different” for the younger ones they are happy to be different and tell their classes we celebrate our own way. For the older ones they get it and love us and celebrate with us, but the middle ones the teens it’s harder for them to accept it. They still feel left out and weird, it’s hard on teens to be seen as different from the norm. They have asked us why, why can’t we be normal or be like other families. Why do we always have to do things in a way that no one else does. There is no easy answer for that and in struggling to find where we fit in this world that is seeking to assimilate us and create a global village of many different and beautiful cultures sometimes I feel lost in our goals as well. It would be way easier to just follow the colonial flow and participate in the death of our culture at the hands of cheap consumerism.

Mostly though crazy childhood aside (thanks genocide, manifest destiny, and colonization) I got tired of making snide comments on Christmas day. I got tired of being the “hater” and realized oh yes, I have free will; I am an autonomous being with a rich culture history and love of indigenous life. I felt shame and anger for participating in a celebration that felt weak to me and I felt bad for putting my feelings into the celebrations of those I loved. The situation was unfair to us all, it’s not my place to tell anyone how to celebrate but I can remove myself from that which carries such a heavy price tag and allow others the joy they feel but I cant bare to mimic any more. Not to say that I didn’t spend my fare share of years desperately trying to keep up with a mainstream ideal of what holidays are and spend a shit ton of money we didn’t have on a day I can now openly and with relief say I hate.

We have family members who are Christians and my husband and I respect their right to believe in what they believe in for any reason, as is there ‘god’ given right. For us though we knew and felt a different way was appropriate to us and our culture. We decided to stop celebrating a religion that was and still is central in the colonization of our people, our strength is in our resolve and we knew that to protect our own sense of history, self, and our indigenous identity we could no longer pretend. Our children deserve better. They deserve to know the reality of consumerism, corporatism, and Christianity, how the last 50 years in Canada is a big white washed lie and that we are not all participants in this scheme.

The children of our people have a right to know our own celebrations, have a right to be proud of whom they are. Reinforcement is needed to create a healthy relationship of our ways, many decry our culture is dying yet do nothing more than pay lip service to the teachings that are begging for us to recognize and revive them. This is so important to me, it is a dream to see our nations reclaiming our indigenous celebrations and celebrating them freely and proudly. It is ok for us not to be like the dominant culture, how freeing to know now is a time when it is not illegal to practice our ways, the Indian agent is not going to come and jail us for singing and dancing; anymore. The shame and the past history that has wounded us all even those yet to be born does not have to impact our spirits so deeply that we do not even remember our own ways. Reclaiming the very real and relevant holidays that our people enjoyed has to be much deeper and more involved then it is.

Today in these times of shopping malls, plastics, mining that impacts indigenous people for the electronics we so desperately need is not our way. Yes we are all complicit in attaching ourselves to these products and rabid consumerism. Christmas and Easter are the biggest scam in colonial history. Sacred ancient customs and reverent ceremonies have been taken and bastardized by corporate culture until it is so twisted today that it would be unrecognizable to the people from a century ago. I aint no angel and I have definitely been and am as GUILTY as the bible says Eve was for the original sin, yes I admit I get sucked into the consumer nightmare. BUT as I grow and evolve I can RESIST, and resist I do. We do not need to feel guilt or different for these acts of resurgence and sovereignty. Giving up Christmas is not a trend or a band wagon, it’s a jump into a whole world of unknown adventures, a lifestyle, living closely to the earth and feeling the pain our mama is enduring for our toys, purses, iPhones, make up, and toilet paper (another pet peeve for another time LOL). Not to mention ‘thanksgiving’ and the reality for indigenous of the new world eating turkey on a day celebrating contact and the beginning of our genocide is like Jewish people giving thanks and celebrating the day Hitler opened Auschwitz.

How can we be self determined if we are not reclaiming every last little bit that was stolen from us, beat from us, and shamed from us. How can we entertain the ideas of governing ourselves if we are not a culture whole and as intact as we can be after contact and colonization has damaged us so? Our elders are dying, literally for us to talk with them, learn from them, record their knowledge in our hearts and minds and share it with those younger than us. I suffer tremendous guilt and shame some times because even though I am busy and have plenty of beautiful brown babies to look after I still feel badly. I don’t visit enough, learn enough, or try harder.

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Sage Against the Machine: Being Truth to Power

Hwy401 Blockade

By , Indigenous Nationhood Movement

In the wake of two horrific world wars, American Quakers coined the phrase “speak truth to power” as part of a campaign for peace. The truth they wished to voice to the American public, its leaders, and to power itself was a familiar one: “love endures and overcomes.” Speaking truth to power stood in contrast to the silence of cold obedience as exemplified by the professional soldier. Here, the Quakers follow a long-standing tradition in western political thought of identifying speech with agency and disobedience.

This view of politics extends back to the ancient Greeks and reflects the guiding intuition behind contemporary democratic institutions. Throughout that long history, the disruptive potential of speech has been a mainstay of emancipatory movements, struggles for the full inclusion of the marginalized, and the fight for basic equalities that have been historically denied. Dominant communities have accordingly sought to protect their privilege by limiting the ‘voice’ of groups who seek to speak their truths.

But a very different strategy of power is deployed when contending with groups who seek collective autonomy as opposed to equality and inclusion. In the past half-century, settler colonial society has come to realize that excluding Indigenous peoples and their perspectives from public discourse has not stopped them from speaking to one another or from strengthening their nations. These nations are, of course, rooted in the very lands over which dominant society unilaterally asserts its claim of sovereignty. Formal exclusion has proven a limited strategy. And so Indigenous nationhood movements have inspired a distinctive and seemingly counter-intuitive response from dominant society: an invitation (sometimes even a demand) that Indigenous peoples speak truth to power.

Why would colonial institutions accommodate and in some cases encourage the voices of Indigenous peoples? Because at its core, what settler society fears more than the disruptive potential of Indigenous speech is the inevitability that Indigenous peoples, once released from an imposed duty to justify themselves to the colonizer, will turn that massive investment of energy back into being truth to power. Being truth to power is reflected in those embodied practices of love for community and for the land, diverse practices that undermine the homogenizing violence that sustains colonial privilege. Accordingly, colonial power increasingly works through sites of dialogue designed to sap the vitality from these embodied practices of autonomy. The goal is to lift Indigenous peoples out of communities and off the land and drop them into a permanent state of explanation, a limbo wherein they are compelled to talk endlessly to settlers about community and about land.

When Indigenous peoples are not engaged in being truth to power, then, it is often because they have been induced to explain and justify themselves to a colonial audience. They have been tireless and resilient at the podium, these elders, activists, advocates, academics, lawyers, artists, teachers, and children. They have tapped every shared register and common understanding available in the hopes that genuine reciprocity might drip, however slowly, into the rusted tin can of colonial institutions. They have argued for nationhood through the abstract lens of high philosophy, through the concrete immediacy of violence against women, and from every location in between. They have deployed the arcane legal language that colonial courts revere as authoritative and they have attempted to transpose Indigenous perspectives into every idiom that the general public might understand. They have been repeating the message at every opportunity and in every institution be it the media, grade schools, universities, courts, legislatures, international governance bodies, conferences, committees, commissions, corporate boardrooms and negotiating tables.

Indigenous peoples are prompted to reach across the colonial abyss by the urgency and immediacy of threats to health and well-being. Despite the fact that these efforts have led to some important gains, from the perspective of settler colonial power there are advantages to promoting still more dialogue. For one, such exchanges are an important method of maintaining surveillance and control. As mentioned, they also sap and divert vital energy. But there is another, less obvious reason why settlers champion more robust discourse: Indigenous ‘voice’ is the primary source of narcissistic settler redemption.

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No Thanks to Thanksgiving

By Robert Jensen, AlterNet

One indication of moral progress in the United States would be the replacement of Thanksgiving Day and its self-indulgent family feasting with a National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting.

In fact, indigenous people have offered such a model; since 1970 they have marked the fourth Thursday of November as a Day of Mourning in a spiritual/political ceremony on Coles Hill overlooking Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, one of the early sites of the European invasion of the Americas.

Not only is the thought of such a change in this white-supremacist holiday impossible to imagine, but the very mention of the idea sends most Americans into apoplectic fits — which speaks volumes about our historical hypocrisy and its relation to the contemporary politics of empire in the United States.

That the world’s great powers achieved “greatness” through criminal brutality on a grand scale is not news, of course. That those same societies are reluctant to highlight this history of barbarism also is predictable.

But in the United States, this reluctance to acknowledge our original sin — the genocide of indigenous people — is of special importance today. It’s now routine — even among conservative commentators — to describe the United States as an empire, so long as everyone understands we are an inherently benevolent one. Because all our history contradicts that claim, history must be twisted and tortured to serve the purposes of the powerful.

One vehicle for taming history is various patriotic holidays, with Thanksgiving at the heart of U.S. myth-building. From an early age, we Americans hear a story about the hearty Pilgrims, whose search for freedom took them from England to Massachusetts. There, aided by the friendly Wampanoag Indians, they survived in a new and harsh environment, leading to a harvest feast in 1621 following the Pilgrims first winter.

Some aspects of the conventional story are true enough. But it’s also true that by 1637 Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop was proclaiming a thanksgiving for the successful massacre of hundreds of Pequot Indian men, women and children, part of the long and bloody process of opening up additional land to the English invaders. The pattern would repeat itself across the continent until between 95 and 99 percent of American Indians had been exterminated and the rest were left to assimilate into white society or die off on reservations, out of the view of polite society.

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