National Day of Mourning turns Thanksgiving into something more honest

Historians are skeptical that anyone ate a turkey. The Wampanoag alliance with the Pilgrims was not so much about forming a community as it was about ensuring survival in a time of massive change. At first, the pious newcomers did not invite the Wampanoag family to celebrate.

More realistically, the threads so often woven in the United States fail to mention the fact that the encounter of the aboriginals with the English colonists was marked by the incalculable loss of everything from genocide to disease and land theft.

“The fighting led to the enslavement and massacre of more than 700 men, women and children of the New England-based tribe, a bloody precursor to what may be centuries of conflict for the indigenous peoples of the United States,” Joll explained.

For a long time now, the indigenous people have been striving to make things right.

Established in 1970, National Day of Mourning turns the fourth Thursday of November into something more honest. Many Aboriginal people use this day not only to remember the suffering inflicted on them in the 1620s, but also to refer to the struggles that Aboriginal people still face today in the form of, plus many more, violence against women and girls.

Here’s more about this radical act of reclamation:

What are the origins of National Day of Mourning?

The day came unexpectedly. In 1970, the coordinators of the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower asked a respected Aquina Wampanoag activist named Wamsutta Frank James to speak at the banquet they were planning. (There are two federally recognized tribes of the Wampanoag people: the Mashbe and the Wampanoag, and the Aquinah and the Wampanoag.) But the invitation hinged on one condition: he had to deliver a copy of the letter in advance.

“I stand here with mixed feelings to share my thoughts,” Wamsutta Frank James wrote. “This is a time to celebrate for you—to celebrate the anniversary of the beginning of the white man in America. A time to look back, and think. It is with a heavy heart that I remember what happened to my people.”

The speech, which alluded to such horrors as the enslavement of Europeans and the killing of natives, left planners dumbfounded.

“I think they wanted a symbolic citizen, and I think they expected him to sing the praises of the Pilgrims—to thank them for bringing ‘civilization’ to these shores,” said Keisha James, the granddaughter of Wamsota Frank James. CNN. “They said he could not make this speech because he was too agitated and that they would write him a new word. But he refused to put the words in his mouth.”

Wamsota Frank James decided this date was too important for the country to ignore, and joined forces with other Aboriginal people to create a “National Day of Mourning” as Aboriginal response to the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Really, what we’ve been doing on National Day of Mourning every year since 1970 is telling the truth, and explaining why we don’t give thanks for what happened in the 1920s or later, to this day,” Mahtwen Munro said. , a Lakota and co-leader of the United Indians of America in New England.

What happens on National Day of Mourning?

Today is a mixture of remembrance and protest. Participants meet at noon on the fourth Thursday of November in Coles Hill, which is above the Plymouth Harbor area where Plymouth Rock is located. There is also a statue of Osamkin, or Masawat, who was the leader of the Wampanoag at the time of the pilgrims’ arrival.

Those gathered on the hill begin with an unrecorded spiritual celebration. Next, participants attend a rally where speakers talk about a variety of issues. There is at least one person who lists the date of National Day of Mourning. After the rally, the participants marched to Plymouth Rock for a second rally.

“There, we’re talking about how, in the words of Malcolm X, ‘we didn’t blow on Plymouth Rock,'” Monroe explained. Plymouth Rock has landed on us,” referring to how the 1620s marked the beginning of colonization (or “the beginning of the end,” as Wamsutta Frank James wrote in his pent-up speech) for the area’s indigenous peoples.

Next, the participants walked to an area in Plymouth known as Post Office Square. It is where the colonists offered the severed head spear of Metacom, the revered Wampanoag leader who attempted to unite all the natives against the English.

Although the National Day of Mourning faced hurdles in its early years, the event has gained more and more momentum over the decades.

“I would say that people, in general, are becoming more aware that there is something wrong with the Thanksgiving myth and that there is this protest that happens every year in Plymouth,” Keisha James said. “And that is reflected in our numbers. Our first national day of mourning was 150-200 people, which was really good for 1970. Now, we get between 1,500 and 2,000 a year. We also have a live stream so people from around the world can watch mourning. National day “.

Is National Mourning Day just about the past?

No. Contemporary issues guided by many sermons. Consider this year’s observance of National Day of Mourning.

“We will have a speaker from a tribal community in Louisiana that has been severely affected by the collapse of the climate, specifically by Hurricane Ida,” Munro said. “We’re going to have someone who just got back from COP26 talking about how indigenous peoples have been largely excluded from that (the event) and how world leaders are refusing to listen to what indigenous people everywhere have to say about what needs to be done to tackle climate justice.”

Other issues will also receive attention, including pipeline resistance, the crisis of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, girls and spirits, and the Earth Return movement.

“Sometimes, I think non-Native people think of us as historically stuck. They think we’re stuck in the past,” Munro said. “But as we talk about our history—for if we don’t, it will be completely erased—we are active in our resistance and in what is happening. currently. “

Keisha James has echoed some of these sentiments, especially stressing the importance of realizing that history is never history.

“There is a tendency not to understand that the past actually has consequences for the future,” she said. “There is a tendency to admit that what the Pilgrims did was bad but then act as if everything is fine now.”

The long and brutal history of state suppression of Aboriginal voices motivated the founders of National Day of Mourning to allow only Aboriginal people to speak at the event.

“Old people started it (with only native speakers) in 1970. They said it was because we were silenced every two days of the year or we had white people speaking for us — as if we were unable to speak for ourselves,” Monroe explained. They said people needed to stop for at least one day a year and only listen to the indigenous people. We also believe that non-indigenous people need to listen to the voices of indigenous people regularly, especially to understand the real solutions to the climate crisis offered by indigenous land stewards.”

What’s on your mind?
2021 was a year. What questions do you have about the political and cultural battles that lie ahead in 2022? We want to hear from you and prepare for the New Year together. Email us at [email protected] by November 30th and your question can feature in the December issue.


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