Thanksgiving holiday in US is 'a day of mourning’ for Native Americans
How do Indigenous people in the US spend Thanksgiving? For many, rather than a celebration of peace and shared prosperity between Native Americans and European settlers, the holiday represents the dark shadow of genocide and the resilience of Native people.
Members of Native American tribes from the northeastern region of the United States are gathering, 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, Massachusetts, will recall the disease and oppression that European settlers brought to North America.
Plymouth is a seaside town where the so-called Pilgrims that arrived from England first settled.
“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 Cole’s Hill, a windswept mound overlooking Plymouth Rock, a memorial to the colonists’ arrival. They will also livestream the event.
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 U.S. as well as in Canada, where hundreds of bodies have been discovered on the grounds of former residential schools for Indigenous 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 need to understand that you need to be thankful each and every day — that was how our ancestors thought and navigated this world," Weeden said. “Because we were thankful, we were willing to share ... and we had good intentions and a good heart.”
That wasn't reciprocated over the long term, Weeden added.
“That's why, 400 years later, we’re still sitting here fighting for what little bit of land that we still have, and trying to hold the commonwealth and the federal government accountable,” he said.