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MA Indigenous Communities Gather in Plymouth for Day of Mourning

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Wednesday, November 24, 2021   

PLYMOUTH, Mass. - While many non-Native Americans sit down with their friends or families for a holiday meal tomorrow, some Indigenous communities in Massachusetts will gather in Plymouth - not for Thanksgiving, but for what they call the National Day of Mourning.

Since 1970, Indigenous residents have protested on this day, as a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands and erasure of Native cultures. Mahtowin Munro, a co-leader with United American Indians of New England, said it's a protest against racism and oppression that Indigenous people still face.

"In particular, on National Day of Mourning, through our work," she said, "we've been popping a hole in the bubble that is the national myth about the Pilgrims, the Thanksgiving myth."

In American school lessons, Munro said, Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving meal are glorified. But she said this obscures the
truth of what happened - and that according to Native historians, the first proclaimed "day of thanksgiving" actually followed the massacre of up to 700 Pequot men, women and children in what is now Connecticut.

According to the most recent Census survey, more than 90,000 Native American and Alaskan Native people live in the Commonwealth. Munro added that even more Indigenous people from Mayan and Andean cultures often are categorized as Hispanic or Latino. She said there are many more Indigenous residents of Massachusetts than non-Natives realize, who have to combat persistent stereotypes and assumptions.

"As Indigenous people, we're taught to give thanks every day, and we do," she said. "But we're not going to give thanks for the invasion of Native homelands and the theft of our land, and the oppression of our people."

She said the General Assembly is considering five pieces of legislation that address Indigenous concerns. One bill would create and implement Native curricula in schools, since there currently is nothing about contemporary Indigenous cultures. Others would ban the use of Native mascots in schools, create Indigenous People's Day statewide, protect sacred Native American heritage items and improve educational outcomes for Native students.


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