Indigenous activists outside of the White House in 2021.
For many Americans, Thanksgiving is about food, family, and saying what you’re grateful for.
However, for Indigenous Peoples, it’s a day to gather to reflect on their heritage and past treatment of ancestors.
Recognized as The National Day of Mourning, the event has been held every November since 1970.
Right now, as families across the country have gathered to cook, catch up, and remember what they’re thankful for, members from the Indigenous community have gathered by the statue of Wampanoag chief Massasoit Ousamequin, across the street from Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts ,to commemorate the 53rd National Day of Mourning.
Observed on the fourth Thursday of November each year, the National Day of Mourning is held by the United Americans Indians of New England (UAINE) so that members of the Indigenous community can reflect on their heritage and educate the masses about how their ancestors were slaughtered by foreigners who first arrived in the United States in the 1600s. The murders they speak about took place at the Pequot Indigenous Nation’s annual Corn Festival in 1637, where Pilgrims entered the festival and massacred hundreds of men, women, and children from the Pequot tribe, took their food, and called it a Thanksgiving.
The first National Day of Mourning demonstration was held in 1970 after the then-leader of the Wampagnoag tribe Frank “Wamsutta” James’ speaking invitation was rescinded from a Massachusetts Thanksgiving Day celebration after he refused to be silent about the past treatment of his people. Instead, James delivered a speech on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts next to Ousamequin’s statue, where he described Indigenous peoples’ perspectives on the holiday.
This year, the event began with a prayer service at 12:00pm, followed by speeches from members of the Indigenous community and a march, according to a report by Maine Public Radio. Kisha James, a member of the community who to Boston’s public radio station WBUR-FM in 2020, said that many Indigenous people also fast from sundown the night before to sundown the day-of to remember the hardship and genocide their ancestors faced.
“Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands and the erasure of Native cultures,” the UAINE said in a statement on their website about this year’s event. “It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection, as well as a protest against the racism and oppression that Indigenous people continue to experience worldwide.”