U.S. metal band Mastodon found itself embroiled in controversy late last week after they released a limited edition Thanksgiving-themed shirt for sale on their website. The shirt, emblazoned with the band’s name and the words “Happy Thanksgiving,” depicts a scruffy, grinning pilgrim aiming a musket at a scantily-clad Native women, who kneels before him while offering a fully-cooked turkey. Many of the band’s fans were not impressed, and took to Facebook to voice their concerns about the shirt’s artwork. Some fans, such as Native activist Erica Lee, posted further commentary on the shirt’s many issues on Tumblr. Some Native communities on Facebook were also quick to point out the racist and sexist implications of the shirt’s imagery.
Families gathered across the United States to celebrate Thanksgiving together this week. For some it involved a great deal of travel and stress. Hours of labour were spent in an attempt to create the perfect meal. This holiday, unlike Christmas, is meant to simply be about coming together as a family to give thanks for another year, and for the bounty Americans typically have in their lives.
What is conveniently ignored is the cause of that bounty. After the dishes are washed and every stomach is sated, at its heart, Thanksgiving is the macabre celebration of the near genocide of the Indigenous Peoples.
We teach our children fairytales about the day to maintain the national myth of the benign Pilgrim and the friendly Indian. Schools reinforce the message with the performance of pageants. This holiday is pure Americana, and it is pure revisionist history. Continue reading