The National Day of Mourning takes place on the fourth Thursday of November. If this date sounds familiar to you, it’s because the fourth Thursday of November also coincides with Thanksgiving in the U.S. Every year on the National Day of Mourning, Native American people in New England gather together to protest. To them, Thanksgiving serves as a reminder of the unjust treatment that Native Americans have received since the 1620 Plymouth landing.
Pilgrims landed in Plymouth and established the first colony in 1620. As such, it’s the oldest municipality in New England. Many Native Americans, however, don’t celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. Thanksgiving, to them, is a brutal reminder of “the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture.”
The United American Indians of New England (UAINE) sponsors this event. They maintain that the Pilgrims arrived in North America and claimed tribal land for their own, as opposed to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with the local inhabitants. UAINE members believe that these settlers “introduced sexism, racism, anti-homosexual bigotry, jails, and the class system.”
The National Day of Mourning generally begins at noon and includes a march through the historic district of Plymouth. While the UAINE encourages people of all backgrounds to attend the protests, only Native speakers are invited to give these speeches about the past, as well as current obstacles their people have overcome. Guests are asked to bring non-alcoholic beverages, desserts, fresh fruits and vegetables, or pre-cooked items. The protest is open to anyone, and has attracted other minority activists.
The first day of NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week kicks off the seven days of festivities that celebrate the culture of the native people of Australia. Ironically, though it’s now a time of celebration, NAIDOC Week originally started as a time for protesting. In the 1920s.