While most people associate Thanksgiving Day with Macy’s balloons, turkey dinner and football games, the United American Indians of New England (UAINE) honor a different kind of holiday: one of mourning and protest.
Every year since 1970, a group of Indigenous people have traveled to Cole’s Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts to march in protest and bring awareness to the horror that has been bestowed upon their people. From the genocide of millions of Native Americans during the Columbus era, to theft of native land and culture that continues even today, this group refuses to let their people suffer in silence. This day for them is called the National Day of Mourning (NDOM).
“We were always taught [in elementary and middle school] that the Native Americans and the pilgrims had a nice feast on the ‘first Thanksgiving,’” said third-year history major Odessa Quinonez. “It turns out that it was a lot more complicated than that, and the Native people have every right to be angry.”
In addition to a march, the UAINE also participates in a potluck dinner to enjoy each other’s company and sit with those who share their ancestry. Allies were welcome to march quietly, the UAINE’s website claims that “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.”
Those who couldn’t make it to Plymouth were also encouraged to stand in solidarity with their brothers and sisters. Dr. Nancy Murray wrote a flyer outlining some of the ways to support the NDOM, which include sharing the public profile of the UAINE, donating to the cause and spreading knowledge about the NDOM and what ideas it stands for.
A plaque located at the site of the rock reads: “Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands and the relentless assault on their cultures. Participants in the National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today.”
According to CNN, Native Americans today still face huge gaps in employment and wealth, along with the highest rate of suicide and the second highest rate of opioid overdoses of any demographic in the United States. The National Day of Mourning is all about giving a voice to those people, and taking a stand against the many injustices they face.
This year was the 50th anniversary of the march and protest in Massachusetts. The UAINE wrote in a press release that “this year’s NDOM is dedicated to Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls & Two Spirits, and to our thousands of relatives who are migrants and are being abused by ICE and other government agencies, including having their children stolen from them. We didn’t cross the border – The border crossed us!”
Next year marks the 400th year since the pilgrims arrived on native land. Some Indigineous people are still displaced, and are moving further from their culture every day. For more information on the UAINE, visit http://www.uaine.org/.