US Thanksgiving as a Celebration & a National Day of Mourning

Wamsutta Frank James by statue of Massasoit, in Plymouth, MA on the National Day of Mourning in the 1970s. (Courtesy of guest)

Yes, it can be both. I like what Kisha James said in this WBUR interview. She’s a Wellesley College senior, enrolled Aquinnah Wampanoag/Oglala Lakota, and granddaughter of Wamsutta (Frank B.) James (1923-2001), who gave the first Day of National Mourning speech in Plymouth, MA 50 years ago today. Below is an excerpt from a recent article and interview. (The US and the world need more people like Kisha James.)

This Thanksgiving, Kisha James asks non-Native people to educate themselves and their families on the real history of the holiday. Take time to learn the tribe whose land you’re on, then look into the tribe’s struggles and donate to help, she says.

“Try to divorce your Thanksgiving celebrations from the Thanksgiving mythology,” she says. “So no more pilgrims and Indians, no more teaching your children about the first Thanksgiving as we learn it in public school where it was a friendly meal.”

And don’t only think about Indigenous people on Thanksgiving, she says.

As many Americans start to wake up to the realities of the Thanksgiving story, some people are receptive to learning the truth about the holiday and accept that what they learned in school is a lie, she says. But a significant amount of people accuse Indigenous people of trying to “ruin” the holiday and disrupt family celebrations, she says.

Kisha James says she doesn’t object to families gathering to eat a meal together, but rather the false mythology surrounding the day.

“We’re essentially extending our hand to these people and saying, here’s the truth. If you want to learn the truth and accept the truth, come with us,” she says. “And unfortunately, some people don’t want to take our hand because they’re committed to dying on the wrong side of history.”

Follow these links to read the article and listen to the interview, and to read the 1970 speech:

For Native Peoples, Thanksgiving Isn’t A Celebration. It’s A National Day Of Mourning (25.11.20)

The Suppressed Speech of Wamsutta (Frank B.) James, Wampanoag (UAINE)

Here’s part of an email I sent to United American Indians of New England (UAINE) about the National Day of Mourning activities in Plymouth, MA: As a lineal (direct) and collateral descendant of numerous Mayflower passengers, both strangers and saints, and as someone who knows the truth about that period of history on both sides of the Atlantic, you have my wholehearted support.

One of the best books about US Thanksgiving and its origins is This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving by David J. Silverman. If you’d like, you can start with a 27.11.19 article-length version In 1621, the Wampanoag Tribe Had Its Own Agenda In American lore, friendly Indians helped freedom-loving colonists. In real life, the Wampanoags had a problem they didn’t know how to fix.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

3 thoughts on “US Thanksgiving as a Celebration & a National Day of Mourning

  1. JULY 19, 2019
    Wampanoag People
    Darius Coombs, Wampanoag & Eastern Woodlands director at Plimoth Patuxet discussed the culture of the Wampanoag people who lived in the Plymouth area prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims. He explained how they adapted to the presence of the English and how the remaining members, including him, live today. The Nantucket Historical Association hosted this event and provided this video.

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