Just Let Us Be Thankful, Okay?

The United American Indians of New England (UAINE) has gathered every fourth Thursday of November since 1970 in Plymouth, Massachusetts for its National Day of Mourning (NDOM). Members gather to publicly reject the traditional American Thanksgiving and protest injustices done to indigenous people since white settlers first arrived from Europe. They believe the tale of Pilgrims and Indians sitting down at Plymouth Rock and eating a meal together is disrespectful to their ancestors.

They think Native Americans showed up at the meeting place with the white settlers in order to wage war, then feasted after negotiations were made. The group’s website states that Thanksgiving is “a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture.”

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UAINE dislikes Thanksgiving and what it stands for so much that its members jumped an iron fence and buried Plymouth Rock with shovels and sand while supporters cheered not once but twice – at the first NDOM and to commemorate its 25th anniversary in 1995.

They have also boarded the Mayflower replica and placed Klu Klux Klan sheets on the statue of William Bradford. For those who aren’t brushed up on their colonial history, Bradford was governor of Plymouth Colony and helped shape the political institutions of the first permanent colony in America.

NDOM features an organized gathering at Cole’s Hill on Thursday. Only Natives are allowed to give speeches during the event, and speakers take the microphone by invitation only. This year’s event includes a nod to Mexicans who are allegedly being abused by ICE because “We didn’t cross the border – the border crossed us!”

UAINE seeks to unite indigenous people from two separate countries as if these groups were historically united. I’m no professional historian, but I’m pretty sure all the indigenous people didn’t live harmoniously before the arrival of white settlers. Anglo-Saxon explorers didn’t bring warfare to a peaceful continent; they just brought more advanced weapons.

The ancestors of today’s Native Americans were conquered. The Anglo-Saxon explorers did not steal their land; they conquered the original inhabitants and claimed the land in the name of their own homeland. This pattern has been repeated in countless other cultures and regions throughout the world since the beginning of time. The UAINE does not have a patent on cultural assimilation.

The NDOM also includes a potluck meal, where Native people and their non-native supporters gather to eat and socialize.

Hmmm…this is starting to sound a lot like regular Thanksgiving. Except, NDOM has a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $15,000 for its 2019-2020 expenses. As of this writing, the group has raised $4,392.

Regardless of its historical origins, the modern Thanksgiving holiday is a day set aside to count our blessings. The only tragedy is the war this group wages on a quintessentially American holiday.

Thanksgiving embodies so many of the conservative values that make our country great. We celebrate family, friends, our abundant food supply, and take a break from widespread consumerism to rejoice in simply spending time together.

And that is always worth celebrating.

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