National Day of Mourning
Since 1970, Indigenous people & their allies have gathered at noon on Cole's Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the US Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native people do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims & other European settlers. Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands and the erasure of Native cultures. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Indigenous ancestors and Native resilience. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection, as well as a protest against the racism and oppression that Indigenous people continue to experience worldwide.
52nd Annual National Day of Mourning
November 25, 2021
Cole's Hill, Plymouth, MA
Join us as we continue to create a true awareness of Native peoples and history. Help shatter the untrue image of the Pilgrims and the unjust system based on racism, settler colonialism, sexism, homophobia and the profit-driven destruction of the Earth that they and other European settlers introduced to these shores.
Dedicated to Moonanum James, Bert Waters, others who have returned to the ancestors.
Solidarity with Indigenous struggles throughout the world!
We welcome all our relations crossed by the US border & ICE.
In 2021, while some supporters will attend in person, we will also livestream the event in Plymouth and have substantial additional online content, with messages from many struggles as well as music.
Message to National Day of Mourning 2020 from Leonard Peltier
Download Leonard Peltier's Statement
For more information about the case of Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier, and to find out how you can support, please go to the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee website.
Greetings my relatives, friends, loved ones, and supporters.
First of all, I want to thank you for the privilege of being allowed to express my feelings about this “Day of Mourning” as we call it, and “Day of Thanksgiving” as the rest of the US calls it. Sometimes I’m at a loss for words to express all the thoughts I have going on in my head after 45 years of imprisonment.
I do want to express my appreciation for our ancestors before us, who fought so hard that we would live today. I want to express my feelings of remembrance for the ones who were overpowered by the weapons of war coming from Europe and the pandemics they faced. Though we have been attacked by the invaders from Europe, over and over in every way possible, and everything that has been done to destroy us, our culture, and traditions, we still survived until today because we are an expression of the Creator’s Will and an expression of the Creator’s Truth. We are a manifestation of that truth, that all mankind should live within the boundaries of those laws.
There is nothing that came from Europe that has made this portion of the Earth a better place to live, but like all nature, we have survived, and nature continues to survive, though mankind is on the edge of destroying itself. The truths that our people spoke of, the need to live in harmony with each other, the Creator, the Mother Earth, and respect one another’s’ approach to spirituality, when expressed by non-Indians becomes a sensation around the world. We must continue to speak our truth, to live our truth, and to support one another, for there lies our survival. The most powerful weapons that we can obtain is knowledge of truth and love for one another, and the practice of that truth and love.
We must unite and work together every chance we can and embrace all others who are of like-mind and willing to work to correct this worldwide pandemic of greed and selfishness that has infected the whole earth and mankind.
On this Day of Mourning, let us again remember our relatives before us, who fought every challenge imaginable that we might survive, and in our prayers say “Thanks for not giving up. Thanks for giving your lives that we might live.” And to all of you out there, I want to say thanks for not giving up on me and my quest for freedom. May the Creator bless you in every way. You brother always, in all ways.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse and Resistance,
In addition to National Day of Mourning and supporting many other important struggles, UAINE works with other
organizations to do lots more!
- Indigenous Peoples Day MA
UAINE is providing leadership in the work of Indigenous Peoples Day MA, which has been providing support and strategy for Indigenous Peoples Day campaigns in Massachusetts. Successful campaigns have included Cambridge, Brookline, and more, and we also have a bill before the state legislature. See the Indigenous Peoples Day MA website for more information!
- Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda
UAINE is also a key component of the Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda, which consolidates the efforts of those working on five important bills involving Indigenous issues that are currently before the MA legislature to make a statewide Indigenous Peoples Day, Prohibit the use of Native sports team names and Mascots, Redesign the State Flag & Seal, Support Native Education, and Protect Native Heritage. To learn more about this important work and how you can help to support it, go to the Massachusetts Indigenous Agenda website.
by Moonanum James and Mahtowin Munro
Every year since 1970, United American Indians of New England have organized the National Day of Mourning observance
in Plymouth at noon on Thanksgiving Day. Every year, hundreds of Native people and our supporters from all four
directions join us. Every year, including this year, Native people from throughout the Americas will speak the truth
about our history and about current issues and struggles we are involved in.
Why do hundreds of people stand out in the cold rather than sit home eating turkey and watching football? Do we have
something against a harvest festival?
Of course not. But Thanksgiving in this country -- and in particular in Plymouth --is much more than a harvest home
festival. It is a celebration of the pilgrim mythology.
According to this mythology, the pilgrims arrived, the Native people fed them and welcomed them, the Indians promptly
faded into the background, and everyone lived happily ever after.
The truth is a sharp contrast to that mythology.
The pilgrims are glorified and mythologized because the circumstances of the first English-speaking colony in
Jamestown were frankly too ugly (for example, they turned to cannibalism to survive) to hold up as an effective
national myth. The pilgrims did not find an empty land any more than Columbus "discovered" anything. Every
inch of this land is Indian land. The pilgrims (who did not even call themselves pilgrims) did not come here seeking
religious freedom; they already had that in Holland. They came here as part of a commercial venture. They introduced
sexism, racism, anti-lesbian and gay bigotry, jails, and the class system to these shores. One of the very first
things they did when they arrived on Cape Cod -- before they even made it to Plymouth -- was to rob Wampanoag graves
at Corn Hill and steal as much of the Indians' winter provisions of corn and beans as they were able to carry.
They were no better than any other group of Europeans when it came to their treatment of the Indigenous peoples
here. And no, they did not even land at that sacred shrine called Plymouth Rock, a monument to racism and oppression
which we are proud to say we buried in 1995.
The first official "Day of Thanksgiving" was proclaimed in 1637 by Governor Winthrop. He did so to
celebrate the safe return of men from the Massachusetts Bay Colony who had gone to Mystic, Connecticut to
participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot women, children, and men.
About the only true thing in the whole mythology is that these pitiful European strangers would not have survived
their first several years in "New England" were it not for the aid of Wampanoag people. What Native people
got in return for this help was genocide, theft of our lands, and never-ending repression. We are treated either as
quaint relics from the past, or are, to most people, virtually invisible.
When we dare to stand up for our rights, we are considered unreasonable. When we speak the truth about the history
of the European invasion, we are often told to "go back where we came from." Our roots are right here. They
do not extend across any ocean.
National Day of Mourning began in 1970 when a Wampanoag man, Wamsutta Frank James, was asked to speak at a state
dinner celebrating the 350th anniversary of the pilgrim landing. He refused to speak false words in praise of the
white man for bringing civilization to us poor heathens. Native people from throughout the Americas came to
Plymouth, where they mourned their forebears who had been sold into slavery, burned alive, massacred, cheated, and
mistreated since the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620.
But the commemoration of National Day of Mourning goes far beyond the circumstances of 1970.
Can we give thanks as we remember Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier, who was framed up by the FBI and has
been falsely imprisoned since 1976? Despite mountains of evidence exonerating Peltier and the proven misconduct of
federal prosecutors and the FBI, Peltier has been denied a new trial. Bill Clinton apparently does not feel that
particular pain and has refused to grant clemency to this innocent man.
To Native people, the case of Peltier is one more ordeal in a litany of wrongdoings committed by the U.S.
government against us. While the media in New England present images of the "Pequot miracle" in
Connecticut, the vast majority of Native people continue to live in the most abysmal poverty.
Can we give thanks for the fact that, on many reservations, unemployment rates surpass fifty percent? Our life
expectancies are much lower, our infant mortality and teen suicide rates much higher, than those of white Americans.
Racist stereotypes of Native people, such as those perpetuated by the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves, and
countless local and national sports teams, persist. Every single one of the more than 350 treaties that Native
nations signed has been broken by the U.S. government. The bipartisan budget cuts have severely reduced educational
opportunities for Native youth and the development of new housing on reservations, and have caused cause deadly
cutbacks in health-care and other necessary services.
Are we to give thanks for being treated as unwelcome in our own country?
Or perhaps we are expected to give thanks for the war that is being waged by the Mexican government against
Indigenous peoples there, with the military aid of the U.S. in the form of helicopters and other equipment? When the
descendants of the Aztec, Maya, and Inca flee to the U.S., the descendants of the wash-ashore pilgrims term them
'illegal aliens" and hunt them down.
We object to the "Pilgrim Progress" parade and to what goes on in Plymouth because they are making
millions of tourist dollars every year from the false pilgrim mythology. That money is being made off the backs of
our slaughtered indigenous ancestors.
Increasing numbers of people are seeking alternatives to such holidays as Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. They are
coming to the conclusion that, if we are ever to achieve some sense of community, we must first face the truth about
the history of this country and the toll that history has taken on the lives of millions of Indigenous, Black,
Latino, Asian, and poor and working class white people.
The myth of Thanksgiving, served up with dollops of European superiority and manifest destiny, just does not work
for many people in this country. As Malcolm X once said about the African-American experience in America, "We
did not land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us." Exactly.