Members of native New England tribes held a gathering Thursday in the seaside town where the first English settlers settled, not to give thanks but to mourn the indigenous peoples of the world who have endured centuries of racism and abuse.
The solemn observance of the National Day of Mourning in downtown Plymouth, Massachusetts, coinciding with Thanksgiving in the United States, recalls the infectious diseases and oppression that European settlers brought to North America.
“Native peoples have no reason to celebrate the arrival of the pilgrims,” said Kisha James, a member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag and Oglala Lakota tribes and granddaughter of Wamsutta Frank James, the initiator of the event.
“We want to educate people to understand that the stories we learned in school about the first Thanksgiving are all lies. The Wampanoag and other indigenous peoples have certainly not been happily ever after since the arrival of the pilgrims, ”said James.
The Pilgrims were the English settlers who settled on the coast and founded the town of Plymouth in 1620.
“For us, Thanksgiving is a day of mourning because we remember the millions of our ancestors killed by European settlers, such as pilgrims, whom no one invited here. Today, we and many indigenous peoples across the country say ‘no thanks and no action,’ ”said James.
This is the 52nd year that the United American Indians of New England host the event on Thanksgiving Day. The tradition started in 1970.
Indigenous peoples and their supporters were scheduled to congregate at noon at Cole’s Hill, an elevation overlooking Plymouth Rock, which marks the point where the settlers arrived.
Participants will beat drums, pray and condemn what organizers call “the unjust system based on racism, colonialism, sexism, homophobia and profit-driven destruction of the Earth.” They will then walk through historic downtown Plymouth.