Thanksgiving Day, as celebrated by the Pilgrims, is essentially an autumnal harvest festival.
Thematic Images of Pilgrim & Native American Thanksgiving
"The First Thanksgiving 1621" (Ferris)
Native Americans Squanto, Massasoit, and Samoset
Squanto (aka Tisquantum of Wampanoag tribe)
Squanto (aka Tisquantum of Wampanoag tribe)
Tisquantum, better known by his nickname Squanto, was a Native American from the Patuxet band of the Wampanoag tribe who taught the pilgrims of Plymouth colony how to survive in New England. The exact date of his birth is unknown, but historians estimate that he was born around 1580. Squanto is best known for his work as a guide and interpreter for early settlers in Southern New England. Squanto was able to communicate with the pilgrims because he spoke fluent English.
Massasoit Sachem or Ousamequin (c. 1581 – 1661) was the sachem (leader or chief) of the Wampanoag tribe, who maintained peaceful relations with the English in the area of Plymouth, Massachusetts. He’s known for smoking a ceremonial pipe with Governor John Carver at Plymouth in 1621.
Samoset (also Somerset, c. 1590–1653) was a sub-chief of the Abenaki Sagamore (one of the Algonquian-speaking tribes of northeastern North America) and the first American Indian to make contact with the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony. He startled the colonists on March 16, 1621 by walking into Plymouth Colony and greeting them in English, which he had begun to learn from fishermen frequenting the waters of Maine. In their conversations, Samoset, as an ambassador and interpreter, told the Pilgrims about Squanto and Massasoit and provided much beneficial information to the Pilgrims, describing the land, the people, places, and distances. In Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers, documents record, "He discoursed of the whole country, and of every province, and of their sagamores, and their number of men and strength."
The Native American Un-Thanksgiving
"Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. We are thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. We give thanks to all the Waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms — waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us—we are thankful." (Text of musical score from The Tracking Project of the Six Nations Indian Museum.)
"Thanksgiving should be celebrated by highlighting the contributions and sacrifices made by the Wampanoag. All too often Thanksgiving is celebrated from a Eurocentric point of view...."
Un-Thanksgiving: Native American Heritage Month & Day
NATIONAL NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH & DAY
November was made “Native American Heritage Month.” The bill was signed into law on August 3, 1990 by then President George H. W. Bush, who declared the month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month, thereafter commonly referred to as Native American Heritage Month.
In 2008, Congress, at the urging of Native organizations, designated the day after Thanksgiving as "Native American Heritage Day," a day to acknowledge living Native peoples, past and present. The first Native American Heritage Day was held on November 28, 2008.
"National Native American Heritage Day" is observed a day after Thanksgiving. American Indians are accorded special honor on this day, and their rich cultures, accomplishments, contributions, and heritage are celebrated.
To access the "Cultural Survival" Native American Heritage Month website, click here
To access the First Nations website for "How to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month,"click here
To access the governmental Native American Heritage Month website, click here
To access the 2022 U. S. Senate Resolution recognizing November 2022 as National Native American Heritage Month. click here
Some Famous Native American Leaders of the Past
White Buffalo-Calf Woman
The Occupation of Alcatraz Island
This Thanksgiving will be the 52nd Annivarsary of the Occupation of Alcatraz. November 20, 2021 is the 52nd anniversary of the occupation of Alcatraz. On Nov. 20, 1969 The Indians of All Tribes (IOAT) group set up camp on Alcatraz Island in nonviolent protest, claiming it as Indian land under the Treaty of Fort Laramie. They stayed on the island until June 11, 1971, when federal marshals removed them after a 19 month occupation. The Occupation of Alcatraz put the "Red Power Movement" on the map and became a symbol of the struggle of indigenous people to re-establish their identity, leading to over 50 other occupations of government facilities.
John Trudell (February 15, 1946 – December 8, 2015) was a Native American author, poet, actor, musician, and political activist. He was the spokesperson for the Indians of All Tribes' takeover of Alcatraz beginning in 1969, broadcasting as Radio Free Alcatraz. During most of the 1970s, he served as the chairman of the American Indian Movement (AIM), based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
John Trudell at Alcatraz, 1970
John Trudell, a Santee Sioux, was the spokesperson for the United Indians of All Tribes' takeover of Alcatraz beginning in 1969. In December of that year, Trudell started broadcasting "Radio Free Alcatraz." For Trudell's Thanksgiving Day 1970 interview on Alcatraz Island, click here
For an archive recording of one of John Trudell's "Radio Free Alcatraz" broadcasts (12/30/69),click here
For John Trudell's 1980 Thanksgiving Day Address, click here
To read "The Pirate Radio Broadcaster Who Occupied Alcatraz and Terrified the FBI," click here
The American Indian Movement & the Protest Against Thanksgiving
Russell Means in front of statue of Massasoit, the Wampanoag Indian leader in 1620, during a Thanksgiving Day protest in Plymouth, Mass (1970)
Russell Means and Dennis Banks of AIM
To highlight the loss of indigenous culture and the decimation of Native populations since the arrival of the Europeans in North America, AIM members organized a Thanksgiving Day protest in Plymouth, Massachusetts on the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival. Protesters gathered at the statue of Massasoit, an important Wampanoag Indian leader in 1620. American Indian Movement leaders Russell Means and Dennis Banks delivered speeches condemning the romanticized portrayal of Thanksgiving as ignorant and inaccurate. Protesters also climbed on the replica of the Mayflower demanding that Thanksgiving should be considered a National Day of Mourning and not a celebration of colonialism. AIM’s Thanksgiving Day protest, taking place during the Occupation of Alcatraz in California, increased national awareness of AIM and defined AIM’s advocacy as strident and vocal. Importantly, the 1970 protest at Plymouth Rock initiated a nationwide conversation about the inclusion of Native perspectives in American history that is still ongoing.
“In actuality, there were three separate occupations of Alcatraz Island, one on March 9, 1964, one on November 9, 1969, and the occupation which lasted nineteen months which began on the 20th of November, 1969.”
A Tribute to Native American Leaders for Native American Heritage Day/Month
Richard Oakes (May 22, 1942 – September 20, 1972) was a Mohawk Native American activist. He spurred the first Native American studies in university curricula and is credited for helping to change US federal government Indian termination policy policies of Native American peoples and culture. Oakes led a 19 month occupation of Alcatraz Island with LaNada Means, approximately 50 California State University students, and 37 others. The Occupation of Alcatraz is credited for opening a rediscovered unity among all Native American tribes.
Dr. Lornada Warjack (aka LaNada Means) is a Native American visionary and the founder of the Take back Alcatraz movement. She is a member of the Shoshone Bannock Tribes where she lives on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Idaho. In January of 1968, she was the first Native American student enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley and graduated with honors in an Independent Major of Native American Law & Politics. While attending UC Berkeley, she participated as the first Native American component of the first Ethnic Studies Program in the UC statewide effort in establishing Native American Studies, African American Studies, Chicano Studies and Asian Studies. In 1969, she and students throughout California united together to take over Alcatraz Island in peaceful protest against the federal government’s ill treatment of the Native Indigenous people and the federal government's repeatedly breaking of treaties with tribes. This ended the Indian Termination Policies, beginning the self determination era and facilitated certain subsequent government funded policies for Indian Tribes' Nation wide while recovering millions of acres of land back.
John Trudell (February 15, 1946 - December 8, 2015) was a Santee Sioux author, poet, actor, musician, and former political activist. He was the spokesperson for the United Indians of All Tribes' takeover of Alcatraz beginning in 1969, broadcasting as Radio Free Alcatraz. During most of the 1970s, he served as the chairman of the American Indian Movement (1973 to 1979), based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John Trudell is an acclaimed poet, national recording artist, actor and activist whose international following reflects the universal language of his words, work and message. In February of 1979, a fire of unknown origin killed Trudell's wife, three children and mother-in-law. It was through this horrific tragedy that Trudell began to find his voice as an artist and poet, writing, in his words, "to stay connected to this reality."
In 1982, Trudell began recording his poetry to traditional Native music and in 1983 he released his debut album Tribal Voice on his own Peace Company label. Trudell then teamed up with the late legendary Kiowa guitarist Jesse Ed Davis. Together, they recorded three albums during the 1980's. The first of these, AKA Graffiti Man, was released in 1986 and dubbed the best album of the year by Bob Dylan. AKA Graffiti Man served early notice of Trudell's singular ability to express fundamental truths through a unique mix of poetry, Native music, blues and rock. Since that time, Trudell has released seven more albums plus a digitally re-mastered collection of his early Peace Company cassettes. His 2002 CD, Bone Days, was executive produced by Academy Award winning actress Angelina Jolie and released on the Daemon Records label. In addition to his music career, Trudell has played roles in a number of feature films, including a lead role in the movie Thunderheart (1992) and a major part in Sherman Alexie's Smoke Signals. He most recently played Coyote in Hallmark's made for television movie, Dreamkeeper (2003).
Dennis Banks (April 12, 1937 - October 29, 2017), a Native American leader, teacher, lecturer, activist and author, is an Anishinaabe born on Leech Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota. He has been a longtime leader of the American Indian Movement, which he co-founded in 1968 with other Native Americans in Minneapolis. He's best known for leading the 1973 occupation by militant Indians of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. In February of 2012, Banks received the Living Legends Award in Washington DC for his contributions as a co-founder of the American Indian Movement and his ongoing committed to the well being of the American Indian community. Banks has also had roles in the movies: War Party (1988), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), Thunderheart (1992), and Older Than America (2008). Banks also is involved in making music. The musical release Still Strong (1993) features Banks' original work as well as traditional Native American songs. He can also be heard on other albums: Peter Gabriel's Les Musiques du Monde and Peter Matthiessen's No Boundaries. In 2012, Dennis Banks joins forces with Golden Globe and Grammy Award-Winning artist Kitaro in celebration of our Earth in the new CD, Let Mother Earth Speak. Banks published his autobiography, Ojibwa Warrior: Dennis Banks and the Rise of the American Indian Movement, in 2004.
Russell Means 1987
Russell Means in The Last of the Mohicans, 1992
Russell Means autobiography, 1995
Russell Charles Means (November 10, 1939 – October 22, 2012) was born an Oglala/Lakota Sioux Indian. After joining the the American Indian Movement (AIM) organization in 1968, he became its first national director, in which role he helped organize notable events that attracted national and international media coverage, most notably the 1973 standoff with the U.S. government at Wounded Knee. He was a tireless activist for the rights of Native American people and also championed the rights of indigenous peoples in other countries. In 1987, he joined the U.S. Libertarian Party and announced his candidacy for the party's presidential nomination. Since 1992, Means went into acting and has appeared in major films: The Last of the Mohicans (1992), in which he starred as the titular Chingachgook, father figure to Daniel Day-Lewis' Hawkeye; Natural Born Killers (1994); and other movies. He has as well recorded two music albums; Electric Warrior (1993) and The Radical (2007). He authored his autobiography, Where White Men Fear to Tread (1995).
Clyde Howard Bellecourt (May 8, 1936) is a White Earth Ojibwe civil rights organizer noted for co-founding the American Indian Movement (AIM) in 1968 with Dennis Banks, Herb Powless, and Eddie Benton Banai, among others. His older brother, the late Vernon Bellecourt, was also active. Clyde was the seventh of 12 children born to his parents (Charles and Angeline) on the White Earth Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota.
Bill Means, older brother of Russel Means, is the founder of the International Indian Treaty Council and currently President of the Board. He has been on the Grand Governing Council of the American Indian Movement since 1972. He is a veteran of Wounded Knee 1973 and helped coordinate legal defense work on over 500 Wounded Knee federal indictments.
Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman (August 17, 1936 – December 13, 2007), also known as Kanghi Duta was a Sioux musician, political activist, and actor. After establishing a career as a country music singer, later in his life, he became a leading actor depicting Native Americans in American films and television. He worked as a political activist for Native American causes.
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