An annual National Day of Mourning is held to honor Native American ancestors, promote Native American resilience, and highlight the truth behind Thanksgiving.
It will not be Thanksgiving celebration when hundreds gather on Cole’s Hill in Massachusetts above Plymouth Rock on Thursday.
Instead, members from many Indigenous communities and non-Natives will gather for the annual National Day of Mourning. This is to commemorate the historical atrocities committed against Native Americans. It often gets lost in the traditional telling of thanksgiving.
The live streamed ceremony was created by the United American Indians of New England in 1970. It aims to raise awareness about Native Americans’ genocide and their theft of their lands, as well as promote the truth behind Thanksgiving.
“The story that the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock to seek religious freedom is the one that most of us grew-up with,” Mahtowin Munro, UAINE coleader, told TODAY. This is a lie, in our opinion, to cover the genocide against Indigenous peoples.
In the traditional tale, two groups of people, the Wampanoag and Pilgrims, meet in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 for a meal. Munro says that Thanksgiving celebrations in 1630s celebrated settlers’ victories over Native Americans.
Munro, a Lakota member, said, “I think it’s a shocker that a lot people don’t realize about”.
“The governor declared the first Thanksgiving in 1637 to commemorate the massacre of 700 Pequot women, men and children.”
Munro says Thanksgiving is the most difficult holiday for many Indigenous communities during a fall season full of them.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and the Orange Shirt Day were both declared this year in Canada. They were created to commemorate the loss of children and survivors who were removed from their families and placed into 140 federally-run Indian residential school between 1831 and 1998.
Munro stated that people came from all walks of the globe to pay tribute to the children who had died in residential or boarding schools. They demanded their remains be identified, returned to their families, and Munro agreed.
The next day was Columbus Day, which became the date for a separate celebration of Indigenous People’s Day. Many see Columbus Day as a celebration Italian American heritage. However, Indigenous communities view it as a celebration for a figure whose explorations led to colonization, genocide and the death of millions of Indigenous people.
Munro stated that “We have to fight the idea of Columbus being a hero as an on-going thing every year.”
Munro explained that Halloween is the next day, and many non-Natives dress up in offensive Indian costumes. This month, Thanksgiving is next.
Jean-Luc Pierite, who is a member the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe in Louisiana and president of The North American Indian Center of Boston’s board of directors, stated that there was one common thread to all these observances. He said that Indigenous peoples were being centered, telling the truths, and moving forward promoting our view about what really happened here.
Munro stated, “I understand that Thanksgiving can seem like an enjoyable holiday where you get to gather with your family and eat turkey.” “Sometimes, we are asked why we don’t give thanks. But Indigenous people give thanks many times per day. We should be grateful for the European invasions.