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'To Us, Thanksgiving Is a Day of Mourning'

Native American group is holding solemn event in Plymouth
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 25, 2021 9:20 AM CST
'To Us, Thanksgiving Is a Day of Mourning'
Marchers carry a large painting of jailed American Indian Leonard Peltier during a march for the National Day of Mourning in Plymouth, Mass., on Nov. 22, 2001.   (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

(Newser) – Members of Native American tribes from around New England are gathering in the seaside town where the Pilgrims settled—not to give thanks, but to mourn Indigenous people worldwide who've suffered centuries of racism and mistreatment. Thursday’s solemn National Day of Mourning observance in downtown Plymouth, Mass., will recall the disease and oppression that European settlers brought to North America, the AP reports. "We Native people have no reason to celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims," said Kisha James, a member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag and Oglala Lakota tribes and the granddaughter of Wamsutta Frank James, the event's founder.

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"We want to educate people so that they understand the stories we all learned in school about the first Thanksgiving are nothing but lies," James says. "To us, Thanksgiving is a day of mourning, because we remember the millions of our ancestors who were murdered by uninvited European colonists such as the Pilgrims. Today, we and many Indigenous people around the country say, 'No Thanks, No Giving.'" It's the 52nd year that the United American Indians of New England have organized the event on Thanksgiving Day. The tradition began in 1970.

Indigenous people and their supporters will gather at noon in person on Coles Hill, a windswept mound overlooking Plymouth Rock, a memorial to the colonists' arrival. Participants will beat drums, offer prayers, and condemn what organizers describe as "the unjust system based on racism, settler colonialism, sexism, homophobia, and the profit-driven destruction of the Earth" before marching through downtown Plymouth's historical district. This year, they'll also highlight the troubled legacy of federal boarding schools that sought to assimilate Indigenous youth into white society in the US as well as in Canada, where hundreds of bodies have been discovered on the grounds of former residential schools for Indigenous children.

(Read more Native Americans stories.)

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