National Day of Mourning 2013
November 28, 2013
(overlooking Plymouth Rock)
Riccaree Vaughan, Native American Culture Examiner
On November 28, 2013 people all over the United States and throughout the world will share a sumptuous meal in thanksgiving for the many bounties and blessings they have received throughout the year. They will do so based on what they believe has been a national tradition since 1621 when the so-called pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians supposedly gathered together in similar fashion at what is now called Plymouth, Massachusetts.
However, many of the Wampanoags and others will not be honoring this so-called “tradition”. Instead, they will engage in what they call a “National Day of Mourning”, and march to Plymouth, MA in protest against the continued abuse and marginalization the American Indians of New England have experienced since the “pilgrims” first set foot on these shores.
Is it possible that American's are unaware of the historical facts that are the basis for what has come to be considered a national 'holy-day'? Without a doubt. In fact, many Americans (including Natives) not only subscribe to the cultural propaganda that surrounds Thanksgiving Day, but argue that they now engage in the celebration of “thanksgiving” on November 22 for their own purposes and in their own way.
When looked at objectively, there is perhaps no American cultural holiday that reflects the social and cultural hypocrisy that continues to be present in Native and non-Native relations in this country. Americans persist in attempts to portray Native Americans and the historical interactions they have had with them in a light that justifies or condones European subjugation of another people's homeland. History books, documentaries, and mass media published in relation to this issue continue to present a sanitized view of America's development at the expense of the 'original people'. It simply cannot bring itself to look at history from indigenous people's point of view, since doing so would cause the entitlement bubble that most Americans live and breathe in to burst.
Nevertheless, many Wampanoag and others have been attempting to get America to look at history from their point of view for the last 42 years. According to the United American Indians of New England (UAINE), a Native rights organization in the area, a Wampanoag man named Wamsutta Frank James was invited in 1970 to speak at the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' 350th Anniversary Banquet celebrating the landing of the pilgrims. Wamsutta agreed to speak, and provided the banquet sponsors with a copy of the speech he intended to give as they had requested.
A few days prior to the day Wamsutta was supposed to speak, he was informed that he would not be allowed to say the things he wanted to say, since “. . . the theme of the anniversary celebration is brotherhood and anything inflammatory would have been out of place.”(http://uaine.org)
Just what was it that Wamsutta was going to say that was so “inflammatory”? Well, apparently he was going to relate his historical perspective regarding the pilgrim's landing, and the Commonwealth of New England just couldn't permit this to happen. According to UAINE, the speech Wamsutta was going to give begins with him stating that:
“ . . . this is a time of celebration for you - celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People.”
Well, we can't have an American Indian stating that he looks back on what was done to his people with a heavy heart now can we! He goes on to say that:
"Even before the Pilgrims landed it was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them as slaves for 220 shillings apiece. The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans. Mourt's Relation describes a searching party of sixteen men. Mourt goes on to say that this party took as much of the Indians' winter provisions as they were able to carry."
Oh no! Indians sold as slaves in Europe! The pilgrims portrayed as thieves and grave robbers? Better keep this from the public!
“We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people.”
You mean to say that according to the Indians, any compassionate actions shown to the pilgrims was repaid with treachery and deceit, and that within 50 years the Wampanoag Nation had been robbed of their land and sovereignty? Yes, this is the historical record, and is clearly documented by eyewitness accounts and primary sources. (http://www.pilgrimhall.org/1stthnks.htm)
In fact, no atrocities or war took place between the Wampanoag and the pilgrims as long as Chief Massasoit was alive. Yet after his death in 1660, his first son Wamsutta (after whom Wamsutta Frank James is named) was unjustly taken prisoner, and died from illness soon thereafter. In 1675, Massasoit's 2nd son Metacom (aka 'King Philip') waged a devasting war in retaliation for this and other atrocities, but was also killed, drawn and quartered, and his head placed on a pole in Plymouth town for the next 20 years. (http://www.pilgrimhall.org/philipwar.htm)
Of course in 1970, the Commonwealth of New England couldn't permit these things to be revealed by Wamsutta Frank James. But had he been allowed to speak, he would have went on to say that:
“History wants us to believe that the Indian was a savage, illiterate, uncivilized animal. A history that was written by an organized, disciplined people, to expose us as an unorganized and undisciplined entity. Two distinctly different cultures met. One thought they must control life; the other believed life was to be enjoyed, because nature decreed it. Let us remember, the Indian is and was just as human as the white man. The Indian feels pain, gets hurt, and becomes defensive, has dreams, bears tragedy and failure, suffers from loneliness, needs to cry as well as laugh. He, too, is often misunderstood."
But since Wamsutta was not permitted to openly state these things, the American Indians of New England and elsewhere have observed Thanksgiving Day as a National Day of Mourning, and will do so again this year. Their intention is to continue to use this holiday to draw attention to the ongoing social and cultural inequalities still present in contemporary America.
As Wamsutta would have said on that fateful day 43 years ago had he been allowed to speak:
“What has happened cannot be changed, but today we must work towards a more humane America, a more Indian America, where men and nature once again are important; where the Indian values of honor, truth, and brotherhood prevail.”
Indeed. And it will truly be a time for all to give thanks when that day comes.
43nd Annual National Day of Mourning
November 22, 2012
WW photo: Liz Green
‘Day of Mourning’: Indigenous protest at Plymouth Rock
By Workers World Boston bureau on November 29, 2012
Hundreds of Native people and their supporters gathered inPlymouth,Mass., on Nov. 22 to commemorate the 43rd annual National Day of Mourning — a protest of the “Thanksgiving” holiday.
Moonanum James detailed the history of the NDOM, saying that “the Pilgrims and Native people certainly did not live happily ever after.” Indigenous speakers described current conditions for Indigenous people, including the high youth suicide rates on some reservations, and went over the history of Native nations following the arrival of European settlers.
Juan Gonzalez gave a statement from the Mayan elders that the world is not going to end on Dec. 21, 2012, despite false claims by some non-Mayan people to that effect. “The world already ended for us in 1492″ whenColumbusarrived, said Gonzalez.
Mahtowin Munro explained some parallels between the Palestinian and Native struggles and expressed solidarity with the people ofGaza. The assembled crowd listened intently to a statement from Leonard Peltier. Later, they marched through the streets ofPlymouthto a rally at Plymouth Rock, described by Moonanum James as a “monument to racism and repression.” Other speakers included Tiokasin Ghosthorse, Rosalba Gonzalez, Anawon Weeden and Stephanie Adohi. A full audio of the program is available at: http://therovinghouse.com/2012/11/22/today-we-visited-the-natonal-day-of-mourning-plymouth-ma/
For More Information Contact:
United American Indians of New England/LPSG
284 Amory St.
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
Phone (617) 522-6626