Lisa Poole / AP
Native American tribesmen from across New England gather in the seaside town where the Pilgrims have settled – not to thank, but to mourn the Indigenous peoples around the world who have suffered centuries of racism and abuse.
Solemn celebration of the National Day of Mourning Thursday in downtown Plymouth, Massachusetts, will remind of sickness and oppression that European settlers brought to North America.
“We natives have no reason to celebrate the arrival of the pilgrims,” said Kisha James, member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag and Oglala Lakota tribes and granddaughter of Wamsutta Frank James, founder of the event.
“We want to educate people so that they understand that the stories we all learned in school on the first Thanksgiving are all lies. The Wampanoag and other indigenous people certainly haven’t lived happily ever since. arrival of pilgrims, ”said James.
“For us, Thanksgiving is a day of mourning, as we remember the millions of our ancestors who were murdered by uninvited European settlers such as Pilgrims. Today we and many indigenous people across the country say : “No thank you, no donation. ‘”
This is the 52nd year that the United Native Americans of New England have held the event on Thanksgiving Day. The tradition started in 1970.
Indigenous peoples and their supporters will meet at noon in person on Cole’s Hill, a windswept mound overlooking Plymouth Rock, a memorial to the arrival of the settlers. They will also be direct the event.
Participants will drum, offer prayers, and condemn what organizers describe as “the unjust system based on racism, settler colonialism, sexism, homophobia and for-profit Earth destruction” before marching in the historic district of downtown Plymouth.
This year, they will also highlight the troubled legacy of the Federal Residential Schools that sought to assimilate Indigenous youth into white society in the United States as well as Canada, where hundreds of bodies have been discovered on the grounds of former residential schools for native children.
Brian Moskwetah Weeden, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council, said on Boston Public Radio earlier this week that Americans owe his tribe a debt of gratitude for helping the Pilgrims survive their first brutal winter.
“People have to understand that you have to be grateful every day – this is how our ancestors thought and navigated this world,” Weeden said. “Because we were grateful, we were ready to share… and we had good intentions and a good heart.”
This has not been reciprocated in the long run, Weeden added.
“That is why, 400 years later, we are still sitting here fighting for what little land we have left and trying to hold the Commonwealth and the Federal Government to account,” he said.
“Because 400 years later, we don’t really have much to show or thank. So I think it’s important that everyone is thankful to our ancestors who helped the pilgrims survive and played. a complex role in the birth of this nation. “