Thanksgiving Day, is it a “Christian” Holiday?

Many Americans have little knowledge of the complete history of Thanksgiving Day. And some Christians even treat Thanksgiving as if it were a Christian Holy Day. But, the Great Epidemic, the Pequot Indian Massacre, and Native American Genocide expose the unholy side of this national holiday. Be careful about what you call “Christian.”

by William L. Nowell

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Whatever happens, always be thankful. This is what God wants from you who are in Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus).” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

The Bible tells us that, as Christians, we should always be thankful. In addition, economists tell us that Americans enjoy a higher standard of living than most of the world, and for this, I am thankful. But should we celebrate Thanksgiving Day?

The Dark Side of Thanksgiving Day

For most people, Thanksgiving Day is synonymous with family, food, and fun. For many, this uniquely American holiday as just a wholesome family celebration with roots going back to the time of the Pilgrims. Nevertheless, those of us who take the time to learn the true history of Thanksgiving Day know that there is much that is not wholesome, family oriented, or worthy of celebrating in the roots of this holiday.

As schoolchildren, we're fed sanitized myths and half-truths about the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday. Dressed in costumes of noble Pilgrims and friendly Indians, children reenact romanticized tales of settlers and Indians living happily ever after. And had it not been for the generosity of the Native Americans, the Pilgrims would not have survived. Although that part of the story is true, the parts omitted cast an entirely different light on the “celebration.” Here's the rest of the story.

The Thanksgiving Day Massacre

The dark history of this all-American holiday is well documented and anyone who wants to know the truth can easily find it. What I will present here are just a few of the facts. In 1637, English settlers moved into the Connecticut valley, home of the Pequot Indians. Then early one morning while the Natives were still asleep, the settlers surrounded, attacked, and set ablaze a town full of Pequot Indians. They burned entire families alive. Anyone who escaped the fire, was hunted down, tramped into the mud, and savagely hacked to pieces. In the aftermath of the massacre, these depraved terrorists thanked God for the easy victory over helpless and innocent people. Then on the very next day, their degenerate Governor John Winthrop declared “A day of Thanksgiving, thanking God that they had eliminated over 700 men, women and children.” And a new law mandated that, “This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots.” The first official Thanksgiving Day celebrated mass murder. How sick and perverse is it to celebrate mass murder?

Subsequently, as part of the Thanksgiving celebration, the settlers kicked severed heads of Pequot Indians through the streets for sport. Emboldened by their victory, the settlers i.e. terrorists attacked village after village, leaving only death and destruction in their path. They would routinely sell women and children over the age of 14 into slavery, while killing everyone else, even babies.

Without a doubt, Governor Winthrop and many of the English settlers of 1637 were terrorists cut from the same cloth as modern-day ISIS. Yet, to this day, the fourth Thursday of November is commemorated as a day of thanksgiving and celebration. The mass slaughter of innocent people is nothing to celebrate.

The stench of depravity surrounding the first official Thanksgiving Day - the Pequot Massacre - reeks to high heaven. So to associate this holiday, in any shape, form or fashion, with Christianity is to blaspheme the name of our holy and righteous Savior.

The Great Epidemic of 1616-1619

Shortly before the Pilgrims arrived, a devastating epidemic wiped out as much as 90% of the Native population in southern New England. In 1615, a shipwrecked French trading vessel carried the disease(s) that caused the Great Epidemic. The Europeans introduced cholera, typhus, smallpox, leptospirosis and other infectious diseases to the Native populations; diseases that the Natives had no natural immunity to. Because of the Great Epidemic, the surviving Wampanoag Indians were terrified of Europeans. They wrongly assumed that the white man's God sent the epidemic to destroy them. So out of fear of the Europeans, and to appease their angry God, they helped the Pilgrims survive their first winter in America. Later, the Wampanoags taught the Pilgrims how to hunt and plant crops, giving them the skills to survive on their own. Subsequently, the Pilgrims invited them to the first unofficial Thanksgiving in 1621. By the way, the Pilgrims never called this “Thanksgiving.” For them, a thanksgiving day would have been one spent in prayer and giving of thanks, not a day of feasting. Nevertheless, we see that the Natives and Pilgrims came together, not out of true friendship, but out of fear. That's the real story of the so-called First Thanksgiving.

Native American Genocide

Genocide was an essential part of the colonization strategy long before the Thanksgiving Day Massacre or the “First Thanksgiving.” In 1623, a sermon in Plymouth, Massachusetts “gave special thanks to God for the devastating plague of smallpox that destroyed the majority of the Wampanoag Indians.” Of course, we know God had nothing to do with the plague of diseases inflicted on Native Americans. Although European settlers may have unintentionally spread some diseases, that was not always the case. Sometimes, European settlers gave “gifts” of smallpox-infected blankets to Natives for the express purpose of exterminating them. For instance, in 1763, British general Jeffrey Amherst gave the order to distribute smallpox-infected blankets to “rebellious Indians”. Consequently, the historian Alfred Crosby described their tactics as “an arsenal of diseases.” By today's standards, their tactics were what we label as germ warfare, biological warfare, or maybe as bio-terrorism. The plague eventually spread to the west, killing somewhere around 90% of the Native population. One thing is clear; the genocide of America's indigenous people was the goal of at least some of the original European settlers and their descendants.

Sacrifices on the Altar of Greed

There are many examples of acts of oppression and genocide perpetrated on the Native American population. For instance, the 1838-1839 Trail of Tears, the 1850 Clear Lake Massacre, the 1860 Wiyot Massacre, the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre, are but a few of the many other examples of internal displacement and the intent to kill Native Americans.

Some historians estimate that before the Great Epidemic, America's population was possibly as large as 75 million. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, today the nation's population of American Indians and Alaska Natives, including those of more than one race is a mere 5.4 million. They made up about 2% of the total population in 2014. Of this total, about 48 percent were American Indian and Alaska Native only, and about 52 percent were American Indian and Alaska Native combined with one or more other races. In other words, “pure-blooded” American Indians make up less than 1% of today's population. That is disgraceful! They were once 100% of the population, but genocide and ongoing oppression have all but eliminated America's indigenous population.

The Result of Genocide and Oppression

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 28.3% percent of single-race American Indians (and Alaska Natives) were in poverty in 2014, the highest rate of any race group. That places them at almost double the poverty rate of the rest of the nation. In addition, some American Indian reservations lack sewers and solid waste removal, and thousands of Native families do not have safe drinking water.

In spite of the well-documented history of genocide against Native Americans, and its lingering aftereffects, some people still deny the fact of genocide. For instance, in 2015, a university history professor claimed that a Native American genocide never happened. He then kicked out of his class a Native American student who presented research contradicting his ridiculous assertions. To deny the Native genocide is tantamount to claiming that Africans were never slaves in America. Of course, the Native genocide and African slave trade both happened at roughly the same time, so if you're going to deny one, then you might as well deny the other.

Native American Heritage Day

Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is Native American Heritage Day. I would suggest that instead of going on a spending spree; invest your dollars by supporting programs that uplift Native Americans who are in need. Begin by doing an Internet search for contact information on Native American tribes in your state of residence. Then contact one or more tribal headquarters to gather information about the tribe's food drives, elderly programs, school/college funds and/or other programs that are in need of donations. In addition, search for national organizations serving the needs of Native Americans. However, be aware that not all relief organizations are equal, so do your research to find reputable charities. For starters, you might want to consider supporting one or more of the following organizations.

But if you are not able to give, then at least take time on Native American Heritage Day to educate yourself and/or your children about the proud heritage of the first Americans. Do it for them, and do it for yourself.

Stay up-to-date with current affairs by reading Indian Country news. You might also want to read an engaging and informative book such as 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. And since November is Native American Heritage Month, you might find this article interesting: Five ways to celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

Now That You Know, What Will You Do?

We ought not be oblivious to the past; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Yet, to fixate only on the most egregious sins of the past is both unhealthy and unbiblical. The Bible teaches us to forgive. Also let's not forget that the Word of God says: “Vengeance is Mine,” says the Lord, “I will repay.” And it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:30-31), who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28) So I say, let's leave Governor Winthrop, General Amherst and others like them to God and move on to counting our blessings.

So is Thanksgiving Day a Christian holiday? Definitely NOT! Nevertheless, it's ok to celebrate Thanksgiving Day knowing that the things men mean for evil, God can use for good (see Genesis 50:20). And He has indeed been very good to us. So on this Thanksgiving Day, let's give thanks and praises to the Most High God who has richly blessed us; pouring out His endless loving-kindness, grace and mercy on this land we love.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Three Crosses