National Day of Mourning

Next Thursday, 28 November 2024

National Day of Mourning is an annual protest observed on the fourth Thursday of November and is known as a kind of anti-Thanksgiving.

This is a day of remembrance for all the Native Americans who have been the victims of oppression and genocide throughout the history of the United States that continues even to the present day. 

Those who observe the National Day of Mourning also aim to educate people on the true history of Thanksgiving.  

Native American Monument - National Day of Mourning
Native American Monument - National Day of Mourning - AKA Thanksgiving PC: Gerald Azenaro, CC 2.0

While National Day of Mourning is not a public holiday, it coincides with Thanksgiving so schools and businesses are closed for the day. 

National Day of Mourning History

Thanksgiving was officially established as an American holiday in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln. 

Fast forwarding to 1921, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts staged a reenactment of the first Thanksgiving which became a tradition every year. People dressed up in Pilgrim clothes and gathered at the church that stands on the original Thanksgiving meeting house.

There were prayers and sermons, and then the congregation walked down to Plymouth Rock. Eventually, this began to grow in popularity and it became a tourist attraction.   

In 1970, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts invited the leader of the Wampanoag tribe to deliver a speech at their annual event celebrating the arrival of pilgrims in America. When Wamsutta Frank James gave organizers his speech to be reviewed, they rejected it as being inappropriate and a public relations person revised it to make it more acceptable.

The speech had mentions of Pilgrims stealing Native Americans' supplies of corn and beans and selling Wampanoag as slaves.

"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."

-An excerpt from Wamsutta Frank James' speech

Wamsutta refused to to deliver the revised speech and instead gathered a group of supporters in nearby Cole's Hill. When the re-enactors arrived at Plymouth Harbor, Wamsutta gave his original speech while overlooking the Pilgrims. This marked the first National Day of Mourning. 

It was also in 1970 that Wamsutta founded The United American Indians of New England (UAINE), an organization solely dedicated to the Native people.

Since then, the United American Indians of New England organization has been responsible for organizing annual events for National Day of Mourning, to take place on Cole's Hill. Their goal is to raise awareness about the discrimination and misrepresentation against Native Americans, their current and historical struggles, and to educate people about the other side of the Thanksgiving story. 

How The National Day of Mourning is Observed

Every year hundreds of protesters gather at Cole's Hill on the fourth Thursday of November. Activities begin at noon with a march through Plymouth.

Afterward, there are speeches given by Native Americans only, although everyone is welcome to attend National Day of Mourning events. Afterwards, there's a chance to chat and enjoy some refreshments together.

You can learn and educate yourself about the history and culture of the native people on this day. It is important to go beyond what is taught in schools in order to know the complete history. 

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