How Thanksgiving Became the National Day of Mourning for the Wampanoag Native Americans

When I was young, it was ok for people to celebrate the myth of Thanksgiving as it had been told to us for hundreds of years. The Pilgrims landed on Plymouth rock and were met by some very friendly “Indians”.

These Indians quickly became friends with the Pilgrims. In a way of celebrating both the Pilgrim/Indian friendship and the wonderful harvest that the Pilgrims and the Indians worked together to cultivate…Thanksgiving was born.

Now as time goes on and the country becomes more and more politically correct we can see that the story behind Thanksgiving was based mostly on mythology and it has gone through great changes. This is, in part, due to the Wampanog tribe of Native Americans but more specifically a man named Frank B. James, the one time leader of the Wampanog tribe.

How did the Wampanog tribe of Native Americans turn Thanksgiving into the National Day of Mourning?

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts had decided back in 1970 to invite the then leader of the Wampanoag Native American tribe to Plymouth Mass, the site of the “first Thanksgiving”, and give a speech about the meaning Thanksgiving. The speech was set to take place on the top of Cole’s Hill.

Once the Commonwealth of Massachusetts realized that the Wampanoag tribe leader, Frank B. James, intended to speak out about the misconceptions of Thanksgiving and the way that the Native Americans were actually treated, they decided to un-invite him as a public speaker. This, however, did not stop the Wampanog Native American tribe, it’s leader Frank B. James, or it’s supporters.

Convening at Cole’s Hill in Plymouth Mass, The Wampanoag Native American tribe declared that the Fourth Sunday of November would no longer be known to Native Americans as Thanksgiving. They would now use this day as a way of protesting the Thanksgiving myth of how Native Americans were actually treated…The National Day Of Mourning was born.

National Day Of Mourning Will Continue

Since that first gathering, Native Americans and their supporters have gathered on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth Massachusetts on the Fourth Thursday of November at twelve noon to commemorate The National Day of Mourning. There has been a plaque placed on Cole’s Hill at the yearly meeting site which reads:

“Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the US Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their culture. Participants in a 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.”

Cole's Hill Plymouth MA National Day of Mourning

I can certainly understand why Native Americans would take issue with their whole country celebrating the way that their people were murdered and their land overtaken. See I don’t know exactly what happened because A) I wasn’t there B) my “perfect world” history books told a story of two different types of people coming together to give thanks for their newfound relationship with each other.

The Wampanoag Native American tribe has been quoted as saying they will continue with their National Day of Mourning ceremonies and rallies until American history books reflect what truly happened to their people once the Pilgrims came to this country. While I think we have made definite steps in that direction…I can’t see that happening for a long, long time, if ever.

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