While most people were enjoying their holiday dinner surrounded by friends and family, approximately 300 people in Plymouth, Mass.—many Indigenous to this land—were marking this day remembering it for what it is and was, the beginning of the genocide of all Indigenous peoples on this continent.
Started 45 years ago, National Day of Mourning is a tradition aimed at smashing the colonialist narrative of “Thanksgiving” and replacing it with an empowering event for Native communities.
Standing on the top of Cole’s Hill, overlooking Plymouth Bay and surrounding the statue of Massasoit, the great Wampanoag Grand Sachem, there was a ceremonial blessing. Then Indigenous people, who are the only ones allowed to speak on this day, spoke out to expose the lies. These lies include the the story of the “peaceful invitation” allegedly given by the settlers to break bread with the Wampanoag people, when in fact the settlers had no food and were rescued by the Natives. These same Native people would later be slaughtered by the settlers.
In actuality, there were two celebrations by the settlers—the second one being in 1638, after arriving from what became Mystic, Conn., where they killed and burned 700 Pequot men, women and children. These are the truths that the ruling class in this country never wants told, but ever since 1970, these truths have been told on Cole Hill.
As happens every year, a statement from political prisoner Leonard Peltier was read by elder Bert Waters. Leonard wrote that, despite his declining health, he still appreciates the letters he receives from his supporters. Peltier mentioned that he wishes he could do simple things for his supporters—like help fix their cars or mow their lawns. He said that he still hopes that someday he can go home just for a little while before he passes over to the spirit world.
A Taino elder woman reminded the crowd that the one thing that Indigenous people are is warriors, and that warriors must fight back. There was solidarity offered to the family of Mike Brown and the people of Palestine fighting against the same imperialist forces that tried to wipe out Indigenous people. Speakers mentioned the struggle of the Two-Spirit community, of workers and of immigrants. The crowd then marched through the streets of Plymouth, chanting: “Free Leonard Peltier!” and “Who’s land? Our land!”
A stop was made at Plymouth Rock, where organizers of the demonstration recalled direct action taken against the monument to colonialism: “We buried this rock twice. One year, we splattered blood on it.”
The event ended with a dinner, in which people connected and pledged to continue building and struggling together.