National Day of Mourning 2014
November 27, 2014
(overlooking Plymouth Rock)
In 1970, United American Indians of New England declared US Thanksgiving Day a National Day of Mourning.
This came about as a result of the suppression of the truth. Wamsutta, an Aquinnah Wampanoag man, had been asked to speak at a fancy Commonwealth of Massachusetts banquet celebrating the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. He agreed. The organizers of the dinner, using as a pretext the need to prepare a press release, asked for a copy of the speech he planned to deliver. He agreed. Within days Wamsutta was told by a representative of the Department of Commerce and Development that he would not be allowed to give the speech.
The reason given was due to the fact that, "...the theme of the anniversary celebration is brotherhood and anything inflammatory would have been out of place."
What they were really saying was that in this society, the truth is out of place.
Wamsutta used as a basis for his remarks one of their own history books, a Pilgrim's account of their first year on Indian land. The book tells of the opening of my ancestor's graves, taking our wheat and bean supplies, and of the selling of my ancestors as slaves for 220 shillings each. Wamsutta was going to tell the truth, but the truth was out of place.
Here is the truth: The reason they talk about the pilgrims and not an earlier English-speaking colony, Jamestown, is that in Jamestown the circumstances were way too ugly to hold up as an effective national myth. For example, the white settlers in Jamestown turned to cannibalism to survive. Not a very nice story to tell the kids in school. The pilgrims did not find an empty land any more than Columbus "discovered" anything. Every inch of this land is Indian land.
The pilgrims (who did not even call themselves pilgrims) did not come here seeking religious freedom; they already had that in Holland. They came here as part of a commercial venture. They introduced sexism, racism, anti-lesbian and gay bigotry, jails, and the class system to these shores. One of the very first things they did when they arrived on Cape Cod, before they even made it to Plymouth, was to rob Wampanoag graves at Corn Hill and steal as much of the Indians' winter provisions as they were able to carry. They were no better than any other group of Europeans when it came to their treatment of the Indigenous peoples here.
And no, they did not even land at that sacred shrine down the hill called Plymouth Rock, a monument to racism and oppression which we are proud to say we buried in 1995.
The first official "Day of Thanksgiving" was proclaimed in 1637 by Governor Winthrop. He did so to celebrate the safe return of men from Massachusetts who had gone to Mystic, Connecticut to participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot women, children, and men.
About the only true thing in the whole mythology is that these pitiful European strangers would not have survived their first several years in "New England" were it not for the aid of Wampanoag people. What Native people got in return for this help was genocide, theft of our lands, and never-ending repression.
But back in 1970, the organizers of the fancy state dinner told Wamsutta he could not speak that truth. They would let him speak only if he agreed to deliver a speech that they would provide. Wamsutta refused to have words put into his mouth. Instead of speaking at the dinner, he and many hundreds of other Native people and our supporters from throughout the Americas gathered in Plymouth and observed the first National Day of Mourning. United American Indians of New England have returned to Plymouth every year since to demonstrate against the Pilgrim mythology.
On that first Day of Mourning back in 1970, Plymouth Rock was buried not once, but twice. The Mayflower was boarded and the Union Jack was torn from the mast and replaced with the flag that had flown over liberated Alcatraz Island. The roots of National Day of Mourning have always been firmly embedded in the soil of militant protest.
Indigenous peoples and their supporters gathered in Plymouth, Massachusetts on November 28, 2013, the so-called “Thanksgiving” national holiday, for the 44th annual National Day of Mourning commemoration.
WW photo: Liz Green
Leonard Peltier’s message to National Day of Mourning
December 5, 2013
Supporters of Leonard Peltier, the longest-imprisoned Native political prisoner, are campaigning hard for executive clemency for the ailing 69-year-old hero.
They request solidarity messages be sent to:
Leonard Peltier, #89637-132
USP Coleman I, U.S. Penitentiary
P.O. Box 1033, Coleman, FL 33521.
The following are excerpts from Peltier’s message to the 44th annual Day of Mourning in Plymouth, Mass., on Nov. 28.
Sometimes when I lay on my bunk and I am between sleeping and awake, for a small moment of time I am free and I am there with you.
When I think about all we have lost to this corporate world, when I think about the losses of clean water and rivers and oceans, and when I think about the losses of clean air, when I think about the losses of freedom for hardworking families that once had a father that could take care of his family with a single job but now has to work two or three jobs and the mother must work too, and the children that come home from school with their own key and have to wait the return of one of their parents.
When I think of these losses, when I think of the wage slaves that are being created daily all over the world in the name of progress, when I think of these losses I think … we damn sure have a good reason to mourn, but I really believe that the word “mourn” should have a different meaning for us, not something where we cry and throw our hands up and say, “WHY? WHY? WHY ME? WHY US? WHY THIS?” but something that we say, “NO MORE!” to. Something we make a vow to, renew our efforts, renew our minds, renew our directions to take back our water, take back our air, take back our forests and our mountains and valleys, restore this Mother Earth to the natural balance the Creator meant it to be.
This may sound like the ramblings of some old, 69-year-old man in prison for 38 years, but I have had a lot of time to think about these things, and when my grandchildren come to visit me, it gives me a sense of urgency for all of us to start doing something NOW!
If each one of you would take a vow to get six other people along with yourself to do at least ONE meaningful thing to restore this balance and get each one of those people to network and get six more people and let it go out from there like the branches of a tree, then together we can make a difference. We can make a difference starting today.
This day of mourning would become the morning of a new day!
If this time I have spent here in prison could produce anything of value, I pray that it would move you to become involved. … This government is violating the Constitution over and over and over. These violations started before you or I were even conceived. As some of you may know, the Constitution is a copy of the Iroquois Six Nations Confederacy law. The freedoms and respect that the law implies that we should have for one another in this nation should extend to all those outside of this realm because what is right for one man should be right for others.
These violations of human rights must stop. I know the task may seem overwhelming, and I can’t say that I have the answer for success at making a change, but I do know the answer for failure … that’s to do nothing.
So, if my imprisonment serves nothing else but to be living proof of these violations, then so be it, but it is a reality. Right now, it has been selective violation, but there are powers at hand that seek to inflict those violations upon everyone. A famous warrior named Emiliano Zapata from the Mexican revolution once said, “I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” I could go on and on, but I suppose you get my meaning. I encourage you to be active, to stand your ground and help us recover the ground we have lost.
God, I wish I could be there with you.
I am going to close for now. Be thankful you have the time you have, be thankful you have each other, and give each other a hug for me.
I will see you when I see you.
For More Information Contact:
United American Indians of New England/LPSG
284 Amory St.
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
Phone (617) 522-6626