National Day of Mourning
Since 1970, Native Americans and our supporters have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the US thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. Thanksgiving day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.
51st Annual National Day of Mourning
November 26, 2020
Coles Hill, Plymouth, MA
ORIENTATION FOR 50th ANNIVERSARY NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING 11.26.20
- WHAT IS NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING?
- An annual tradition since 1970, Day of Mourning is a solemn, spiritual and highly political day. Many of us fast from sundown the day before through the afternoon of that day (and have a social after Day of Mourning so that participants in DOM can break their fasts). We are mourning our ancestors and the genocide of our peoples and the theft of our lands. NDOM is a day when we mourn, but we also feel our strength in action. Over the years, participants in Day of Mourning have buried Plymouth Rock a number of times, boarded the Mayflower replica, and placed ku klux klan sheets on the statue of William Bradford, etc.
- WHEN AND WHERE IS DAY OF MOURNING?
- Thursday, November 26, 2020 (U.S. “thanksgiving” day) at Cole’s Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts, 12 noon SHARP. Cole’s Hill is the hill above Plymouth Rock in the Plymouth historic waterfront area.
- WILL THERE BE A MARCH?
- Yes, there will be a march through the historic district of Plymouth. Plymouth agreed, as part of the settlement of 10/19/98, that UAINE may march on National Day of Mourning without the need for a permit as long as we give the town advance notice.
- Although we very much welcome our non-Native supporters to stand with us, it is a day when only Indigenous people speak about our history and the struggles that are taking place throughout the Americas. Speakers will be by invitation only. This year’s NDOM will have livestreaming from Plymouth as well as messages from Indigenous struggles in many homelands!
Please note that NDOM is not a commercial event, so we ask that people do not sell merchandise or distribute leaflets at the outdoor program. Also, we ask that you do not eat (unless you must do so for medical reasons) at the outdoor speak-out and march out of respect for the participants who are fasting. Finally, dress for the weather!
- There will be NO pot-luck social this year due to COVID-19.
- We have discouraged buses and carpooling this year due to COVID. If you cannot get to Plymouth, you can watch online!
- Monetary donations are gratefully accepted to help defray the costs of the day and of UAINE’s many other efforts during the year: 2020-2021 GoFundMe Fundraiser
- FOR UPDATES
- Please join and check the UAINE facebook group for updates on National Day of Mourning this year. Our UAINE website uaine.org will be updated, but not as quickly or frequently.
COVID-19 has hit Indigenous communities very hard, and we want to ensure that no one gets sick from attending National Day of Mourning. Everyone must wear a mask covering their mouth and nose – no exceptions!
IF YOU CAN’T ATTEND NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING
In addition to National Day of Mourning and supporting many other important struggles, UAINE works with other organizations to do lots more!
- Indigenous Peoples Day MA
- UAINE is providing leadership in the work of IndigenousPeoplesDayMA.org, which has been providing support and strategy for Indigenous Peoples Day campaigns in Massachusetts. Successful campaigns have included Cambridge, Brookline, and more, and we also have a bill before the state legislature. See the website IndigenousPeoplesDayMA.org for more information!
- Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda
- UAINE is also a key component of the Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda, which consolidates the efforts of those working on five important bills involving Indigenous issues that are currently before the MA legislature to make a statewide Indigenous Peoples Day, Prohibit the use of Native sports team names and Mascots, Redesign the State Flag & Seal, Support Native Education, and Protect Native Heritage. To learn more about this important work and how you can help to support it, go to MAIndigenousAgenda.org.
- Christopher Columbus Statue
- The Christopher Columbus statue in Boston’s ‘Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park’ has stood for decades as a representation of white supremacy and the celebration of Indigenous genocide caused by Columbus and his men. Like similar statues around the country and Confederate monuments, this Columbus statue has been a focus of protest repeatedly, including having its head knocked off on 6/10/2020. The City of Boston has temporarily removed the headless statue, but will not commit to removing it permanently.
According to this mythology, the pilgrims arrived, the Native people fed them and welcomed them, the Indians promptly faded into the background, and everyone lived happily ever after.
The truth is a sharp contrast to that mythology.
The pilgrims are glorified and mythologized because the circumstances of the first English-speaking colony in Jamestown were frankly too ugly (for example, they turned to cannibalism to survive) to hold up as an effective national myth. 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 of corn and beans 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 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 the Massachusetts Bay Colony 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. We are treated either as quaint relics from the past, or are, to most people, virtually invisible.
When we dare to stand up for our rights, we are considered unreasonable. When we speak the truth about the history of the European invasion, we are often told to “go back where we came from.” Our roots are right here. They do not extend across any ocean.
National Day of Mourning began in 1970 when a Wampanoag man, Wamsutta Frank James, was asked to speak at a state dinner celebrating the 350th anniversary of the pilgrim landing. He refused to speak false words in praise of the white man for bringing civilization to us poor heathens. Native people from throughout the Americas came to Plymouth, where they mourned their forebears who had been sold into slavery, burned alive, massacred, cheated, and mistreated since the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620.
But the commemoration of National Day of Mourning goes far beyond the circumstances of 1970.
Can we give thanks as we remember Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier, who was framed up by the FBI and has been falsely imprisoned since 1976? Despite mountains of evidence exonerating Peltier and the proven misconduct of federal prosecutors and the FBI, Peltier has been denied a new trial. Bill Clinton apparently does not feel that particular pain and has refused to grant clemency to this innocent man.
To Native people, the case of Peltier is one more ordeal in a litany of wrongdoings committed by the U.S. government against us. While the media in New England present images of the “Pequot miracle” in Connecticut, the vast majority of Native people continue to live in the most abysmal poverty.
Can we give thanks for the fact that, on many reservations, unemployment rates surpass fifty percent? Our life expectancies are much lower, our infant mortality and teen suicide rates much higher, than those of white Americans. Racist stereotypes of Native people, such as those perpetuated by the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves, and countless local and national sports teams, persist. Every single one of the more than 350 treaties that Native nations signed has been broken by the U.S. government. The bipartisan budget cuts have severely reduced educational opportunities for Native youth and the development of new housing on reservations, and have caused cause deadly cutbacks in health-care and other necessary services.
Are we to give thanks for being treated as unwelcome in our own country?
Or perhaps we are expected to give thanks for the war that is being waged by the Mexican government against Indigenous peoples there, with the military aid of the U.S. in the form of helicopters and other equipment? When the descendants of the Aztec, Maya, and Inca flee to the U.S., the descendants of the wash-ashore pilgrims term them ‘illegal aliens” and hunt them down.
We object to the “Pilgrim Progress” parade and to what goes on in Plymouth because they are making millions of tourist dollars every year from the false pilgrim mythology. That money is being made off the backs of our slaughtered indigenous ancestors.
Increasing numbers of people are seeking alternatives to such holidays as Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. They are coming to the conclusion that, if we are ever to achieve some sense of community, we must first face the truth about the history of this country and the toll that history has taken on the lives of millions of Indigenous, Black, Latino, Asian, and poor and working class white people.
The myth of Thanksgiving, served up with dollops of European superiority and manifest destiny, just does not work for many people in this country. As Malcolm X once said about the African-American experience in America, “We did not land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us.” Exactly.
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