November 25, 2010

41st National Day of Mourning

Telling the other side of the story

Native Americans gather in Plymouth to protest

By Erin Ailworth
At age 8, Patricia "Bright Star" McCallum helped bury Plymouth Rock.

That was in 1970, during the first National Day of Mourning, an annual protest by Native Americans of the recounting of the Thanksgiving holiday. Each year since, they have gathered on Cole’s Hill, overlooking Plymouth Rock, to recount their people’s history, and the arrival of the Pilgrims and other settlers—which they say resulted in the loss of their lands and harmed tribes.

And yesterday, as she gathered with a few hundred others in the chilly air to commemorate the 41st National Day of Mourning, McCallum recalled that first protest, which her mother helped organize after state leaders prevented Wampanoag leader Wamsutta Frank James from giving what they considered an inflammatory speech on Thanksgiving.

"I didn’t understand the power of it—not at the time," said McCallum, who is of Choctaw heritage. "I remember burying the rock and helping with that. And I remember feeling proud because I was with my people and it was our event."

Around McCallum, protesters stood silently. Some watched Juan Gonzalez, who performed a prayer ritual beneath a statue of Wampanoag Indian leader Massasoit. Others listened as the day’s speakers urged everyone to remember their shared history and use its lessons to fight racism and oppression; help one another get better access to education and health care; and to keep watch over the environment.

"Every inch of this land is Indian land," Moonanum James, son of Frank James and co-leader of the United American Indians of New England, told the crowd. "We are here to unite people and to speak the truth. . . . We are like the dirt, like the sand, like the tides—we shall endure."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Jolie:  Thanksgiving = Murder and Thanksgiving Set the Tone.

Below:  "Juan Gonzalez of Boston kindled a fire under the statue of Massasoit in a prayer ritual during the 41st National Day of Mourning in Plymouth yesterday." (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff)

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