Thanksgiving Day, also known as the Day of Mourning, is a time in which most of us gather around the table with friends and family to enjoy a bountiful meal in remembrance of the first autumn harvest feast shared between the Wampanoags and Pilgrims back in 1621.
This meal marked the start of a new life for the Plymouth Colonizers here in America alongside the Indigenous People who welcomed them. Today, we typically think of togetherness, love and support as we break bread with our loved ones. However, many Native Americans, among others, have an issue with how this story is presented, especially to our youth.
History of the Day of Mourning
Historically since the 70’s, Indigenous People and their supporters have gathered in Plymouth, Massachusetts not to give thanks but to acknowledge Thanksgiving Day as a National Day of Mourning. Protestors from all over the US flood the street on Cole’s Hill every year to remember the dark truth of America when the Pilgrims arrived. In reality, thousands of Native Americans were killed, pushed out of their homeland and forced to accept and adopt the European way of life.
People will gather again this year on November 24th at noon, on the Day of Mourning, for a march throughout the historic district of Plymouth and listen to indigenous speakers from all over the US, who come to share their history and speak of their struggles.
While non-natives are welcomed to the event, it is a day for only Indigenous People to speak of their history and their experiences in the US today. All attendees are asked to wear a mask to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 which has hit the indigenous communities particularly hard.
Incorporating the Native Perspective
One Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Member and mother of three, Danielle Greendeer, has attended the Day of Mourning with her kids for the past 3 years. She says,
“It’s important that we, as Native People, educate others on the truth of our American History. Our kids aren’t learning it in the classrooms. It’s our responsibility to leverage these moments as teaching moments.”.
Danielle just recently published her book “Keepunumuk Weeachumun’s Thanksgiving Story,” a kid-friendly historical take on Thanksgiving Day. This book has earned the New England Book Award and is being incorporated into some classroom curriculum as a way of introducing the native perspective, and is a great starting point for discussing the history of colonization.
So wherever we gather this November 24th, whether we are sharing a communal feast or marching to make our voices heard, let us join in a day of remembrance and spiritual awareness For those who wish to participate in the Day of Mourning but cannot make the trip to Plymouth, the event will be broadcast live at http://www.uaine.org/