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 Native Americans who have been the victims of democide throughout the history of the United States, and also a day to bring light to the continuous suffering of Native Americans. Those who observe National Day of Mourning also aim to educate people on the true history of Thanksgiving.
While National Day of Mourning is not a public holiday, it coincides with Thanksgiving so schools and businesses are closed for the day.
Thanksgiving was officially established as an American holiday in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln.
Since 1921, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has staged a reenactment of the first Thanksgiving every year. People dress up in Pilgrim clothes and gather at the church that stands on the original Thanksgiving meeting house. There are prayers and sermons, and then the congregation walks down to Plymouth Rock. Eventually, this began to grow in popularity and it became a tourist attraction.
In 1971, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts invited the leader of the Wampanoag tribe to deliver a speech at their annual event. When Wamsutta 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 bean and selling Wamppanoag as slaves. Wamsutta refused to make his revised speech, and instead gathered a group of supporters in nearby Cole's Hill. When the reenactors arrived at Plymouth Harbor, Wamsutta gave his original speech while overlooking the Pilgrims. This marked the first National Day of Mourning.
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 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. This is followed by a time to socialize and share drinks and food.