National Day of Mourning
"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." Text of Plaque on Cole's Hill Most school children are taught that Native Americans helped the Pilgrims and were invited to the first Thanksgiving feast. Young children's conceptions of Native Americans often develop out of media portrayals and classroom role playing of the events of the First Thanksgiving.
The conception of Native Americans gained from such early exposure is both inaccurate and potentially damaging to others. Therefore, most children do not know the following facts, which explain why many American Indians today call Thanksgiving a "Day of Mourning". Traditional hospitality and generosity have and continue to be constant Tribal virtues to be practiced at all times.
Before the Pilgrims arrived Plymouth had been the site of a Pawtuxet village which was wiped out by a plague (introduced by English explorers looking to grab a piece of the New World land) five years before the Pilgrims landed These Native peoples had met Europeans before the Pilgrims arrived. One such European was Captain Thomas Hunt, who started trading with the Native people in 1614. He captured 20 Pawtuxcts and seven Naugassets, selling them as slaves in Spain.
Many other European expeditions also lured Native people onto ships and then imprisoned and enslaved them. These expeditions carried smallpox, typhus, measles and other European diseases to this continent. Native people had no immunity and some groups were totally wiped out while others were severely decimated. An estimated 72,000 to 90,000 people lived in southern New England before contact with Europeans.
One hundred years later, their numbers were reduced by 80%. It was the English Captain Thomas Hunt's expedition that brought the plague, which destroyed the Pawtnxet. . The nearest other people were the Wampanoag. In modern times they are often simply known as the Indians who met the Pilgrim invasion, their lands stretched from present day Narragansett Bay to Cape Cod.
Like most other Tribal peoples in the area, the Wampanoag were farmers and hunters. Ironically, the first official "Day of Thanksgiving" was proclaimed in 1637 by Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop. He did so to celebrate the safe return of English colony men from Mystic, Connecticut. They massacred 600 Pequots that had laid down their weapons and accepted Christianity. They were rewarded with a vicious and cowardly slaughter by their new "brothers ...