A day to mourn and a day to honor Native Americans
The idea of giving thanks is fundamental to Native American heritage and culture. Long before colonialists landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620, Native tribes had celebrated the harvest season. Thanksgiving originates from the Native American philosophy of generosity, to giving freely without expecting anything in return. The culture of giving was often a means to share and survive. In the first celebration of this holiday, the Wampanoag tribe lived this philosophy by providing all the food for the celebration and also taught the colonialists how to farm and hunt the land.
While some Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, it is important to understand that for many, Thanksgiving is a day of protest and grief because it memorializes the past 400 years of racism, oppression, and genocide. The United American Indians of New England said the following: “Thanksgiving day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.”
We hope that this Thanksgiving, in face of the current challenges this nation is facing (the pandemic, political divide, and the continued fight for inclusion and equity), that everyone, Native and non-Native, is optimistic about our chances to heal and to dismantle the barriers that divide and oppress us.
This Thanksgiving we urge you to reflect on history and recall the generosity of the Wampanoag tribe, think of the hundreds of thousands of Native Americans who lost their lives and the number of tribes that were erased, to acknowledge and pay tribute to the original inhabitants of the land, and celebrate the resilience and beauty of all the Native American tribes