National Day of Mourning turns Thanksgiving into something more authentic

Historians suspect that anyone ate turkey. The Wampanoags’ alliance with the Pilgrims is less about training the community than ensuring survival in a time of change. And, at first, the pious newbies didn’t even invite the Wampanoags to have fun.

More seriously, the thread that often spins in America doesn’t refer to the native encounter with the British colonists marked by the unfathomable loss of everything from genocide to disease and land theft.

Juul explains, “The fighting resulted in the enslaving and slaughter of more than 700 men, women, and children from the New England-based tribe, a bloody premise for what would happen centuries later. century of conflict against the indigenous peoples of America.”

For a long time, the indigenous people have been fighting to set the record.

Established in 1970, National Day of mourning turn the fourth Thursday of November into something more honest. Many Indigenous peoples use this day not only to remember the suffering caused in the 1620s but also to point to the struggles that indigenous peoples continue to face today in the form, above all, of many other things, violence against women and girls.

Here’s more on this radical reclamation act:

What is the origin of National Mourning Day?

The day came unexpectedly. In 1970, the coordinators for the 350th anniversary of the Mayflower landings asked a respected Aquinnah Wampanoag activist named Wamsutta Frank James to speak at the party they were planning. (There are two federally recognized Wampanoag tribes: the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe.) But the invitation has one condition: He must submit a copy of the speech in advance.

“It is with mixed feelings that I stand here to share my thoughts,” Wamsutta Frank James wrote. “This is a moment of celebration for you – the one anniversary of the beginning of the White Man in America. A time to look back, to reflect. It is with a heavy heart that I look back on what was. happened to my People.”

The speech evoked horrors such as the enslavement and murder of natives by Europeans, shocking the planners.

“I think they want a Native token, and I think they’re expecting him to sing the Pilgrims’ praises – to thank them for bringing ‘civilization’ to these shores,” said Kisha James, Wamsutta’s niece Frank James, told CNN. “They said he couldn’t give that speech because it was too confusing and they would write him a new one. But he refused to put it in his mouth.”

Deciding that this history was too important for the country to ignore, Wamsutta Frank James, along with other Indigenous peoples, created “National Day of Mourning” as an Indigenous response to Thanksgiving.

“Really, what we’ve done on National Day of Mourning every year since 1970 is tell the truth, explain why we don’t give thanks for what happened in the 1620s or later, for to this day,” said Mahtowin Munro, who is Lakota and co-leader of the United American Indians of New England.

What happens on National Mourning Day?

This day is a mixture of celebration and protest. Participants meet at noon on the fourth Thursday of November at Cole’s Hill, above Plymouth Harbor, where Plymouth Rock is located. Also located there is a statue of Ousamequin, or Massasoit, who was the leader of the Wampanoags at the time the pilgrims arrived.

Those gathered on the hill began with an unscripted spiritual ceremony. The participants then attend a rally where the speakers talk about a variety of issues. At least one person recounts the history of National Mourning Day. After the demonstration, participants marched to Plymouth Rock for a second performance.

A statue of Massasoit

“There we talk about how, in Malcolm X’s words, ‘we didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us,'” Munro explained, referring to how the 1620s marked for indigenous people in the area. the beginning of colonization (or “the beginning of the end”, as Wamsutta Frank James wrote in his suppressed speech).

Afterwards, the participants marched to an area of ​​Plymouth known as Post Office Square. That’s where the colonists show up on a severed head of Metacom, a respected Wampanoag leader who tried to unite all natives against the British.

Although National Day of Mourning faced obstacles in its early years, the event has gained more and more momentum over the decades.

“I would say that, in general, people have become more aware that there is something wrong with the Thanksgiving myth and that this protest happens every year in Plymouth,” said Kisha James. “And that’s reflected in our numbers. The first National Day of Mourning had about 150 to 200 people, which was actually pretty good in 1970. Now, we get between 1,500 and 2,000 people annually. We also have a live stream so people from all over the world can watch the National Mourning.”

Is National Mourning Day a thing of the past?

Are not. Contemporary issues inform many speeches. Consider observing this year’s National Day of Mourning.

“We will have a speaker from a tribal community in Louisiana who have been severely impacted by climate collapse, and specifically by Hurricane Ida,” Munro said. “We’re going to have someone just back from COP26 talk about how Indigenous peoples are largely excluded from that (event) and how world leaders refuse to listen to what Indigenous peoples everywhere. Everywhere is talking about what needs to be done to address climate equity.”

Other issues will also receive attention, including pipeline resistance, the crisis of women, girls and two indigenous souls missing and murdered, and the Land Back movement.

“Sometimes, I think non-natives picture us as being stuck in history. They think of us as being stuck in the past,” Munro said. “But while we talk about our history – because otherwise it will be completely erased – we are active in the resistance and what is happening. now. “

Kisha James echoes some of these views, and in particular emphasizes the importance of realizing that history is never history.

“There is a tendency not to understand that the past actually has consequences for the future,” she says. “Tends to admit that what the Pilgrims did was bad but then act like everything was fine.”

The long, brutal history of state suppression of Indigenous voices prompted the founders of National Mourning Day to only allow Indigenous peoples to speak at the event.

“The elders started it (natives only) in 1970. They say it’s because every day of the year we are silent or we have white people speak for us – as if we don’t have the ability to speak for ourselves,” explains Munro. “They say that people need to stop at least one day a year and just listen to the natives. We also believe that non-indigenous people need to regularly listen to the voices of the natives, especially to understand the real solutions to the climate crisis being offered by the land’s primary caretakers.”

What you’re thinking?
2021 is already a year. Do you have any questions about the political and cultural battles that await us in 2022? We’d love to hear from you and prepare for the new year together. Email us at by November 30 and your question may be posted in a December issue.


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