While families across the country were prepping for their Thanksgiving dinners, hundreds of indigenous people and allies met in Plymouth for a more somber gathering — one to challenge the traditional cultural understanding of the holiday.
The demonstrators met as part of the National Day of Mourning, a nationwide movement that seeks to “shatter the untrue image of the Pilgrims and the unjust system” that they perpetuated, according to the website of the United American Indians of New England.
“Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands and the erasure of Native cultures,” the organization said. “Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Indigenous ancestors and Native resilience.”
UAINE has organized protests at Plymouth’s Cole Hill since 1970, as a protest against “the racism and oppression that Indigenous people continue to experience worldwide.” This year’s event took place at 12 p.m. on Thursday, on the shores where the first English settlers landed in 1620.
“We did not simply fade into the background, as the Thanksgiving myth says,” said Kimimilasha “Kisha” James, a member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag and co-leader of UAINE, in video posted to the group’s Facebook. “We have thrived and flourished. We have persevered.”
Demonstrators traveled from as far as New York City for the event, according to posts on the group’s social media.
“The very fact that you [all] are here is proof that we did not vanish,” James said to the assembled crowd. “Our very presence frees this land from the lies of the mythmakers and the history books. We will remember all of our ancestors in the struggle that came before us.”