Harry Crews’ rattlesnake steak recipe.
Archive for November, 2008
While we’re at it.
Thanksgiving is the day the United States celebrates the fact that the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony successfully avoided starvation during the winter of 1620-21.
But from an American Indian perspective, what is it we’re supposed to be so thankful for?
Does anyone really expect us to give thanks for the fact that soon after the Pilgrim Fathers regained their strength, they set out to dispossess and exterminate the very Indians who had fed them that first winter?
Are we to express our gratitude for the colonists’ 1637 massacre of the Pequots at Mystic, Conn., or their rhetoric justifying the butchery by comparing Indians to “rats and mice and swarms of lice”?
Or should we be joyous about the endless series of similar slaughters that followed: at St. Francis (1759), Horseshoe Bend (1814), Bad Axe (1833), Blue Water (1854), Sand Creek (1864), Marias River (1870), Camp Robinson (1878) and Wounded Knee (1890), to name only the worst?
Should we be thankful for the scalp bounties paid by every English colony — as well as every U.S. state and territory in the lower 48 — for proof of the deaths of individual Indians, including women and children?
How might we best show our appreciation of the order issued by Lord Jeffrey Amherst in 1763, requiring smallpox-infested items be given as gifts to the Ottawas so that “we might extirpate this execrable race”?
Is it reasonable to assume that we might be jubilant that our overall population, numbering perhaps 15 million at the outset of the European invasion, was reduced to less than a quarter-million by 1890?
Maybe we should be glad the “peaceful settlers” didn’t kill the rest of us outright. But they didn’t really need to, did they? By 1900, they already had 98 percent of our land. The remaining Indians were simply dumped in the mostly arid and unwanted locales, where it was confidently predicted that we’d shortly die off altogether, out of sight and mind of the settler society.
We haven’t died off yet, but we comprise far and away the most impoverished, malnourished and disease-ridden population on the continent today. Life expectancy on many reservations is about 50 years; that of Euroamericans more than 75.
We’ve also endured a pattern of cultural genocide during the 20th century. Our children were processed for generations through government boarding schools designed to “kill the Indian” in every child’s consciousness and to replace Native traditions with a “more enlightened” Euroamerican set of values and understandings.
Should we feel grateful for the disastrous self-concept thereby fostered within our kids?
Are we to be thankful that their self-esteem is still degraded every day on cable television by a constant bombardment of recycled Hollywood Westerns and television segments presenting Indians as absurd and utterly dehumanized caricatures?
Should we tell our children to find pride in the sorts of insults to which we are subjected to as a matter of course: Tumbleweeds cartoons, for instance, or the presence of Chief Wahoo and the Redskins in professional sports?
Does anybody really believe we should feel honored by such things, or by place names like Squaw Valley and Squaw Peak? “Squaw,” after all, is the Onondaga word for female genitalia. The derogatory effect on Native women should be quite clear.
About three-quarters of all adult Indians suffer alcoholism and/or other forms of substance abuse. This is not a “genetic condition.” It is a desperate, collective attempt to escape our horrible reality since “America’s Triumph.”
It’s no mystery why Indians don’t observe Thanksgiving. The real question is why do you feast rather than fast on what should be a national day of mourning and atonement.
Before digging into your turkey and dressing on Nov. 23, you might wish to glance in a mirror and see if you can come up with an answer.
As close to a holiday tradition as I come. (Besides stocking up on Evan Williams and ammunition.)
From the American Indian Movement of Colorado.
Metacom’s War or Metacom’s Rebellion, was an armed resitance in 1675-6 by indigenous peoples of present-day southern New England against colonizing English invaders. Metacom was the son of Massasoit, the leader of the Wampanoag Nation, who saved the Pilgrims from certain starvation in the winter of 1620. Metacom ascended to become Grand Sachem of the Wampanoag Confederacy after the suspicious death of his older brother, the Grand Sachem Wamsutta in 1662. Metacom’s open distrust of the invading English came to a head when Wamsutta suddenly died in Plymouth, while negotiating with colonial officials there. Tensions continued to grow until some Wampanoags were murdered by the English in June,1675; the war erupted immediately.
Colonial historian Francis Jennings estimated that Metacom’s War killed nearly 7 of every 8 members of the Wampanoag Confederacy and 6 of every 13 English invaders. Metacom’s War was proportionately one of the bloodiest and costliest in the history of America. More than half of New England’s ninety towns were destroyed by indigenous defenders, who had reached the limit of their patience with the deceitful and murderous English parasites.
Metacom was ultimately tracked down by sell-out Indian traitors. He was killed, dismembered, and beheaded. His head was placed on a pole and displayed for years in Plymouth, the site where the Wampanoags saved the Pilgrims fifty six years earlier– the site of the first so-called Thanksgiving dinner. Metacom is an indigenous hero. His name should be in the memory, and on the lips, of every American Indian child in the U.S. He fought and died in defense of his people, and of this land. On the U.S.’ Thanksgiving, we should reject the gluttony and excess of the holiday, and we should fast in honor of Metacom. We should strive to achieve a fraction of his courage and his vision. LONG LIVE METACOM!
For a balanced treatment of this period of history see:
The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity
By Jill Lepore
Published by Vintage Books, 1999
Also, on this U.S. holiday, it might serve us all well to recall the words of the great Luther Standing Bear, who, in 1933,wrote:
“The white man does not understand the Indian for the reason that he does not understand America. He is too far removed from its formative processes. The roots of the tree of his life have not yet grasped the rock and soil. The white man is still troubled with primitive fears; he still has in his consciousness the perils of this frontier continent, some of its fastnesses not yet having yielded to his questing footsteps and inquiring eyes. He shudders still with the memory of the loss of his forefathers upon its scorching deserts and forbidding mountain tops. The man from Europe is still a foreigner and an alien. And he still hates the man who questioned his path across the continent.” … and he fabricates holidays like Thanksgiving to convince himself that Standing Bear was wrong, all the time silently being forced to admit that Standing Bear was (and is)absolutely correct.
Well, it ain’t the best outhouse in the world. But it worked.