Significance of Nat’l Day of Mourning

The 44th commemoration of the National Day of Mourning on Nov. 28 in Plymouth, Mass., will mark 13,809 days of incarceration for Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier. The event will once again honor this heroic fighter for the rights of Indigenous and other oppressed peoples, unjustly imprisoned since 1976.

The so-called “Thanksgiving” holiday starkly reminds us of the centuries of atrocities committed against Native peoples, first by European colonizers and then by U.S. administrations. Indigenous lands stolen, cultures and languages under siege, bigotry, injustice and murderous violence aimed at this country’s original inhabitants: This is the real U.S. history, not the myths.

At the traditional National Day of Mourning ceremonies, Native speakers recount their true history, pay homage to their ancestors and tell of their efforts to survive under this oppressive system. They relate their struggles throughout the Americas.

They also celebrate their militant history, their continuing struggles for political, economic and social rights, and for recognition of their sovereignty and right to self-­determination. Their international unity and solidarity strongly shine through.

Racist discrimination, oppression and corporate exploitation continue. The economic crisis has exacerbated Native workers’ unemployment. High jobless rates have increased even more. In the Northern Great Plains region, only 44 percent of Indigenous workers were employed in 2011. Accessible jobs often have few benefits, if any, and low wages. At least one-third of Native people are impoverished.

Federal sequestration cutbacks in crucial social programs have hit Native communities hard, with reductions of $22 million for health care, $12 million for Head Start, $65 million for public schools, $34 million in housing grants and millions for youth programs.

Nearly one-fourth of Native households receive food stamps. Despite these benefits, one in four adults and one in three children don’t get sufficient nutritious food and one in 10 households faces outright hunger. The Nov. 1 cuts in food stamp allotments by 13 percent per person are devastating to these communities.

Yet, this government allots trillions of dollars to wage wars, occupy lands abroad, bail out Wall Street and corporations and pay big banks. Congress should put human needs first and ensure jobs and all social programs to Indigenous and other oppressed and low-income communities.

Today, Native peoples are boldly resisting capitalists’ pillaging of the earth in search of oil, gas, minerals — and superprofits. They are opposing “climate injustice,” whereby poor countries and peoples are harmed by climate-made disasters — such as the horrific typhoon in the Philippines — caused by carbon emissions. Indigenous activists worldwide are demanding reparations from corporate polluters for climate and ecological damage.

Native communities are organizing against the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport tar sands oil from Canada through the U.S. Northern Plains to Texas refineries, escalating injurious carbon emissions. Protesters are putting themselves on the line in this life-and-death struggle against environmental genocide.

They are in the forefront of those resisting corporate “fracking.” In October, Elsipogtog First Nation tribal members were viciously attacked — and 40 arrested — by police in New Brunswick, Canada, who acted to stop their weeklong protest against shale gas extraction. These struggles cry out for support from all progressive forces and communities.

The call for “Freedom for Leonard Peltier” has echoed worldwide; millions of people demand his release. His supporters are campaigning hard for clemency for the ailing 69-year-old hero — imprisoned far from his nation, the Turtle Mountain Band in North Dakota. They request solidarity messages be sent to Leonard Peltier, #89637-132, USP Coleman I, U.S. Penitentiary, P.O. Box 1033, Coleman, FL 33521.

Workers World Party raises high the banner of solidarity with all Indigenous peoples on this National Day of Mourning, and loudly proclaims, “Free Leonard Peltier!”