Thanksgiving or Mourning in Seattle?

Maybe you have heard about the psychologist employed by the Seattle public school system who sent out a memo to all teachers, warning them of the negative effects of teaching students about Thanksgiving. This had nothing to do with the issue of offering public thanks to the Non-Pluralistic Sovereign Previously Known as God. That memo was sent out several decades ago. This one had to do with American Natives — oops, sorry — Native Americans. The memo announced:

With so many holidays approaching we want to again remind you that Thanksgiving can be a particularly difficult time for many of our Native students.

The memo directed teachers to an independent website that promotes Native American culture. It offers a section on the 11 myths of Thanksgiving. Here is myth #11.

Fact: For many Indian people, ‘Thanksgiving’ is a time of mourning, of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land and seed corn, extermination of many from disease and gun, and near total destruction of many more from forced assimilation. As currently celebrated in this country, ‘Thanksgiving’ is a bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal returned for friendship.

Already I am confused. First, we are told here about Indian people. Is it Native Americans or Indians? I get confused whenever I try to keep up with labels. No sooner had I moved from “colored” to “Negro” than “Negro” went out of favor. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People long ago dealt with this problem by adopting the tactic of substituting letters for words — NAACP — a highly successful tactic that was imitated by Kentucky Fried Chicken when “fried” went out of favor. Why don’t the trend-setters just go to NAP for Native American Peoples, and then let it alone? Think of the possibilities. “NAP time.” “NAPsters.” (But stay away from “NAPpy-headed.”)

Second, Thanksgiving began, according to the popular account, in tiny Plymouth colony in 1621. That was less than 400 years ago. I don’t recall 500 years of betrayal. If this time period refers to Spain in Latin America, beginning in 1492, then the authors are confused. That was not betrayal; that was conquest by the Spanish Empire of the century-old Aztec empire, which was based on the ritual blood sacrifice of rival tribes’ members, and also the conquest of the less-than-a-century-old Inca empire, which was based on a fragile combination of theocracy (a divine monarch), animism, and authoritarianism. (See Louis Baudin’s 1928 book, The Socialist Empire of the Incas.) The Inca Empire was so top-heavy and incapable of responding to the threat that its army of tens of thousands of assembled warriors was defeated by fewer than 300 soldiers — the most astoundingly lopsided military victory in Western history, given the absence of machine guns.

The betrayal came early: when Cortez promised the Aztec emperor safety and then killed him, and then Pizarro did the same with the Inca emperor. This is what military representatives of empires often do to senior political representatives of rival empires. It was exactly what both Indian emperors had done with their regional enemies. Any head of state who falls for the old guaranteed immunity ploy is lacking in historical sense.

Back to the website on Indians/Native Americans. World Net Daily summarizes.

The website posting called “Deconstructing the Myths of The First Thanksgiving,” goes further. The writing by Judy Dow and Beverly Slapin also speculates on the psychology of Thanksgiving.

What is it about the story of “The First Thanksgiving” that makes it essential to be taught in virtually every grade from preschool through high school? What is it about the story that is so seductive? Why has it become an annual elementary school tradition to hold Thanksgiving pageants, with young children dressing up in paper-bag costumes and feather-duster headdresses and marching around the schoolyard? Why is it seen as necessary for fake “pilgrims” and fake “Indians” (portrayed by real children, many of whom are Indian) to sit down every year to a fake feast, acting out fake scenarios and reciting fake dialogue about friendship? And why do teachers all over the country continue (for the most part, unknowingly) to perpetuate this myth year after year after year?

Why? I suggest this answer: for the same reason that Christmas in public festivities is all about Santa, and Easter in public festivities is all about a rabbit who hides eggs. This has to do with a self-conscious avoidance of any reference to the Non-Pluralistic Sovereign Previously Known as God.


That some psychologist in some tax-funded school district somewhere does something as politically correct as this stunt should surprise no one. The story immediately went down the mainstream media’s memory hole. Had it not been for the Web, I would never have heard of it. I did several Google searches, using different keywords. Not one hit came from any mainline news media site. Every reference — and there were hundreds — came from right-wing sites.

If this had been a memo from some follower of Pat Robertson on (say) the need to “get thanks to God back into Thanksgiving,” the bureaucrat would be presently suspended from his/her job. The story would have been featured by at least one of the network evening news broadcasts, and probably all three.

This bureaucrat got a free ride to match her tax-funded salary. Her name is Caprice Hollins. I looked up “caprice” in several on-line dictionaries. I got the following:

a sudden, impulsive, and seemingly unmotivated notion or action; b: a sudden usually unpredictable condition, change, or series of changes a disposition to do things impulsively

Frankly, I don’t think any of this applies to Dr. Hollins. I think she was self-conscious, highly motivated, and thoroughly consistent with what passes for education in America’s tax-funded schools today.

These people have an agenda: to undermine respect for America’s past. This is part of a decades-long program to remove American history from the curriculum. The educators do their best to substitute social studies for American history. The social studies curriculum has been transformed into a constantly revised program to indoctrinate students in the latest statist reform program recommended by whichever special-interest group has the collective ear of the educational bureaucracy. The fads come and go; the agenda remains: get away from teaching American history, especially 1607—1776.

Taxpayers are expected to sit there and be quiet as the children receive this indoctrination. When I think of American educators, I am reminded of a great line in one of Ring Lardner’s novels: “‘Shut up,’ he explained.” Think of this slogan: “Education is too important to be left to parents.” It has been American educators’ central principle ever since the 1830’s, when the Unitarian lawyer and politician Horace Mann took over the newly created state board of education of Massachusetts. Massachusetts was the last state to abolish tax funding for a denomination, Congregationalism, in 1833. Before the decade was over, Unitarians had decided to establish a new church: the public school system. That idea spread like wildfire, with a similar outcome. Caprice Hollins’ memo is just one more minor brushfire in this continuing conflagration.


This question lies at the heart of the culture wars. The culture wars in America began 17 years after the Puritans got off the good ship Arbella and waded ashore. In 1647, the state government of the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law requiring that every town of 50 or more families set up a school, with education free to poor parents. Towns of 100 families had to hire a teacher to train students for entry into Harvard College. This was called the Old Deluder Satan Act.

It was not Satan who was deluded. It was the Puritans who were deluded when they decided to use money confiscated from one family to train the children of other families in a common school, which necessarily always mandates a common curriculum and therefore a common confession of faith: in God, man, law, causation, and time.

In 1987, my publishing company published companion books, one by Robert Thoburn, the founder of Fairfax Christian School, America’s most famous family-operated, for-profit Christian school. Its title was The Children Trap. It is free here.

The other was Who Owns the Family, by Rev. Ray Sutton.

Thoburn argued that the children trap is tax-funded compulsory education. Sutton argued that the war over rival claims of legal control, and therefore ownership, of the family is the most divisive issue in contemporary American life.

These issues have not gone away. Dr. Hollins’ memo is evidence that both issues are alive and well in American society.


Education, I mean. Give it back to the Indians, the Mexican Americans, the blacks, the WASPs, and even the Irish. Give it back to parents. No more guns in the bellies of all these groups in the name of the common confession school system, which is run for the benefit of the educators, not the children, and surely not the parents.

Dr. Hollins worries about the psychological effects of Thanksgiving skits on the children of Native Americans. But neither she nor her peers have ever worried about the effects on Native American families of federally operated schools, with older children pulled off the reservations and sent to distant common schools with mixed sexes and mixed tribes. This educational experiment from the beginning was by far the most self-conscious and systematic attempt by tax-funded educators to undermine families of a rival culture. It took military action for over a century to impose this system on the defeated. When you think “public schools,” think “Indian schools.” Think about Custer’s last stand and the educational program designed in Washington to make sure something like that would never happen again. Think “Bury My Heart at Custer High School.”

In the years after World War II, my father-in-law was a Presbyterian missionary to the Western Shoshone tribe in the Nevada-Utah region. He told me of the accounts given to him by enthusiastic young men who had gone off to fight in the South Pacific against the Japanese. “It was great,” one of them told him. “It was just like the stories my grandfather told me about fighting the white man.” Old traditions die hard. The reservation’s education system had not yet overcome all of the old traditions.

The U.S. government’s Indian reservation system was the first full-scale experiment in tax-funded socialism in the West, meaning not just the Western United States but Western civilization. It is, basically, the re-establishment of Inca civilization over North American tribes. Its effects have been universally disastrous. I believe there is no agency of the Federal government that has been more universally acknowledged as a failure — by voters, by its alleged beneficiaries, and by politicians — for a longer period of time. Yet the Bureau of Indian Affairs continues.

The reservation system’s main benefit today is that tribes can set up gambling casinos on Federal land, outside the jurisdiction of state and local governments. This is the triumph of one of the least productive activities of the free market, but free from states’ taxes and controls nonetheless. “Free at last. Free at last. Seven come eleven, I’m free at last!”


The memo from Dr. Hollins is not an aberration. It is consistent with the educational bureaucracy since 1837. That agenda has been to substitute their authority over education in place of parental authority. Most parents so far have gone along with this, just as the voters in Massachusetts went along with it, beginning in 1647.

Then what about thanksgiving? I have written about the economics of Thanksgiving.

We live as the lawful heirs of 250 years of compound economic growth. This process began in the late eighteenth century as the result of the extension of the property rights system of free market capitalism. Our prosperity is unprecedented. But its origins are not explained in either the social studies courses or American history courses in the American public schools. This has been true for well over a century. The older textbooks blamed political reform for this prosperity. So do the latest textbooks. The only debate is over which political reforms were the wealth-producing ones. This reform is not mentioned: the reform to shrink the power of civil government, thereby extending property rights.

Then what does Thanksgiving mean to me? Rejoicing for our present inheritance in the name of the future. And what is the future I dream about? When the last public school psychologist is strangled in the red tape of the last public school administrator.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November21, 2007

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

Copyright © 2007