Plymouth, Mass.: Hundreds honor Day of Mourning
Published Nov 29, 2007 1:32 AM
Plymouth, Mass., Nov. 22.
WW photos: Liz Green
Hundreds of Native people and their supporters gathered in Plymouth, Mass., on
Nov. 22 to commemorate the 38th National Day of Mourning. Day of Mourning has
been held annually since 1970 on U.S. thanksgiving day to provide a forum for
Indigenous people to speak the truth about the history of this country and to
speak out about current conditions in Indian Country. Participants, led by
members of United American Indians of New England, marched to protest the lies
told about thanksgiving and the European theft of the Americas and held a rally
at the site of Plymouth Rock.
and Ki’sha James.
Moonanum James (Aquinnah Wampanoag), co-leader of UAINE, corrected some of the
thanksgiving mythology that is customarily taught in schools.
“The pilgrims, like Columbus, did not discover an empty land. Every inch
of this land was, and remains, Indian land. The pilgrims (who did not even call
themselves pilgrims) came over here as part of a business venture and not
seeking religious freedom—they already had that in Holland. Sexism,
racism, anti-lesbian and gay bigotry, jails and a class system did not exist
here until introduced by the European invaders. The pilgrims were no better
than any of the other Europeans in their treatment of the Indigenous people
here. They killed Indians; they stole land; they tried to turn Indian people
against each other.
“The pilgrims did not even land at that sacred shrine down the hill
called Plymouth Rock, a monument to racism and oppression.
“As soon as they stepped ashore, in present day Eastham down on Cape Cod,
the pilgrims opened my ancestors’ graves and stole our corn and beans.
Later, from Plymouth Harbor—the very harbor we can see from
here—the English sold my ancestors as slaves for 220 shillings each.
“The first official ‘Day of Thanksgiving’ was proclaimed in
1637 by Governor Winthrop. He did so to celebrate the safe return of the men
from Massachusetts who had gone to Mystic, Conn., 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 Squanto, Massasoit, and
other Wampanoag people. What Native people got in return for this help was
genocide, theft of our lands, and never-ending repression. This is indeed
‘America’s Home Town.’”
A roar of laughter greeted James’ comment that since Plymouth was
planning to demolish and rebuild the stone structure protecting Plymouth Rock,
why not have UAINE tear it down for free.
The crowd listened quietly as a special message from Native political prisoner
Leonard Peltier was read by Bert Waters (Wampanoag). Many were moved by
Peltier’s expression of gratitude for the ongoing support for his
freedom: “As I sit here in my cell, thinking about you and gathering my
thoughts, I want to tell you how good it feels that after 30-plus years you
still remember me. Your songs, prayers, thoughts, laughter, smiles, and support
keep me strong.”
Speakers touched on many points, including the importance of supporting the
anti-war movement as well as building ties of unity within Native communities
and with non-Native allies. Mahtowin Munro (Lakota) emphasized the importance
of supporting immigrant communities that are under attack by the
“What happened to the mostly Mayan sisters and brothers in New Bedford
last March when Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided a factory there and
separated parents from their families was not an anomaly. Massive raids
continue to be carried out by ICE. In cities across the country, ICE is trying
to push immigrant workers further underground and scare them away from
organizing and fighting for their rights.
“Those who dare to cross the U.S.-Mexican border face ICE and other
federal agents, hovering customs helicopters, profiteering contractors, spy
towers and federal ‘cage’ detention centers. Immigrant children are
imprisoned by the federal government in the Hutto prison in Texas.
“But undocumented workers from Mexico and Central America and South
America, joined by Caribbean, Asian, African and other allies, have fought back
and will continue to do so. Step by step, day by day, this movement will
Jesse Lokahi Heiwa
“All of our nations need to come together and stop what is being done to
so-called illegal immigrants by this government of the pilgrims, by the
pilgrims, for the pilgrims. We cannot stand by and allow this brutality to
continue. Let’s tear down that wall that is being built on the
U.S./Mexico border! Our future, and the very future of our Mother Earth,
require us to join together!”
Other speakers included Elena Ortiz (Ohkay Owingeh), Stephanie Hedgecoke
(Cherokee) and Jesse Lokahi Heiwa (Hawaiian). The ceremony was opened and
closed by Juan Rodríguez and Rosalba Solís (Mayan). Rodríguez,
who had recently returned from an encuentro in Mexico, called for a boycott of
Mexican food products because of Mexico’s abuse of Indigenous peoples.
César Villalobos of Inca Son played a song dedicated to Mother Earth on a
Sam Sapiel, a Penobscot elder and medicine man who had opened National Day of
Mourning for decades and who died in the spring, was honored. He was described
as a good man, one who always urged younger people to remember their
traditional Native ways and who built bridges to many other communities by his
participation in countless progressive struggles over the years.
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