National Day of Mourning
National Day of Mourning is a day that is observed on the fourth Thursday of November. It was started in 1970 as a protest against Thanksgiving and the democide of the Native American peoples by the United States government and as a reminder of the injustices that the Native American peoples faced. It is a day in which people of all colors, creeds, and philosophies can learn about Native American culture and their historic and current struggles. While it’s similar to the protest holiday known as UnThanksgiving Day – it is not the same protest day.
The History of the National Day of Mourning
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts began to stage an annual reenactment of Thanksgiving beginning in 1921. During the reenactment, people would dress in 17th century clothes and get together at a church located on the site of the Pilgrims’ original meeting house. At this church, prayers and sermons were spoken and then the entire congregation would head down to Plymouth Rock.
As time passed, word spread about this event and tourists began to show up to watch and/or take part in it. In 1971, on the 350th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving, the United American Indians of New England (UNAINE) organized the first National Day of Mourning. It’s been observed ever since.
Observing the National Day of Mourning
For many Native Americans, the National Day of Mourning is a day to reflect on the spirituality of their people and to remember those who were persecuted and murdered. It is also a day to protest the oppression and racism that Native American peoples continue to experience to this very day.
The National Day of Mourning is also a day to educate people about real Native American history that isn’t just the Eurocentric narrative that’s been taught for so many years. While many people associate Thanksgiving with the broader symbolism that comprises the whole of the American experience, and as a result may see Thanksgiving as a day to bask in American pride, it should be noted that the dissenting voice of Native Americans that their lands were stolen and their traditional way of life was destroyed by the growing American government is an equally valid viewpoint as well.