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Thursday, November 27, 2003 | The current mood of DuctapeFatwa
National Day of Mourning

Since 1970, American Indians and supporters have gathered in Plymouth, Massachusetts on top of a place known as Coles Hill, which overlooks Plymouth Rock, a well-know tourist attraction. It was in 1970 that the National Day of Mourning began. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts had invited Frank James, a Wampanoag Leader to give a speech. When the Commonwealth of Massachusetts learned of the content of Frank James’ intended speech that day, they rescinded their invitation and it was that attempt to silence truth, which gave birth to the National Day of Mourning.

It was the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims.

When Frank James, known to his people, as Wampsutta learned his words would be changed by the Pilgrims at the Annual Thanksgiving Feast in Plymouth he left the dinner and went to a hill where a statue of Massasoit, who was the leader of the Wampanoag people when the Pilgrims arrived and he spoke his words before a small group who had gathered. At that spot, overlooking Plymouth Harbor and the replica of the Mayflower, Frank James spoke about the take over of Wampanoag Traditions, Culture, Spirituality and the theft of Ancestral land.

The attempt to censor the words Frank James intended to speak that day to those at the Annual Feast, gave birth to what is known as the National Day of Mourning and it is was then, that the native peoples of this land spoke out about the real history and not the Apple Pie version that has been taught to our children and wrongly presented as historical fact for hundreds of years.

How much easier it is to accept that Apple Pie version. How difficult it is to face the facts of the genocide and slaughter of the native peoples of this land, the original inhabitants, invaded by those who came not to search religious freedom as has been wrongly portrayed, but who came to conquer...

On the 30th National Day of Mourning in 1999, Moonanum James gave the following speech:

Speech by Moonanum James, Co-Leader of United American Indians of New England, at 30th National Day of Mourning, Cole's Hill, Plymouth, Mass, Nov 25, 1999 Day of Mourning 1999

Good afternoon Sisters and Brothers:

Today, as we have done each year since 1970, United American Indians of New England and our supporters have gathered here to protest and to speak out against the oppression of all people. It is hard to believe that today marks the 30th time that we have gathered on this hill, in all kinds of weather, to speak the truth. I wish I could say that we have always been welcomed here because we speak the truth. Over the years, those who do not want the truth to come out have tried many times and in many ways to silence us. Each and every year we have returned stronger and more determined than the year before. Day of Mourning came into being in 1970 as a direct result of the state's need to keep the Pilgrim mythology alive. Wamsutta Frank James had been invited to address a gathering of dignitaries commemorating the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. Because his remarks did not fit the mythology, he was told that he could not give the speech he had written. The state was more than willing to write a speech for him that would keep the lies alive. He refused to have words placed in his mouth. Instead of speaking to a group of dignitaries in the warmth of a banquet hall, he and a small group of Native Americans came here to Plymouth, stood in the cold, and declared US Thanksgiving Day a National Day of Mourning. What was it about the speech that got those officials so upset?

Here is the truth: The reason they talk about the pilgrims and not an earlier English-speaking colony, Jamestown, is that in Jamestown the circumstances were way too ugly to hold up as an effective national myth. For example, the white settlers in Jamestown turned to cannibalism to survive. Not a very nice story to tell the kids in school. The pilgrims did not find an empty land any more than Columbus "discovered" anything. Every inch of this land is Indian land. The pilgrims (who did not even call themselves pilgrims) did not come here seeking religious freedom; they already had that in Holland. They came here as part of a commercial venture. They introduced sexism, racism, anti-lesbian and gay bigotry, jails, and the class system to these shores. They were no better than any other group of Europeans when it came to their treatment of the Indigenous peoples here. And no, they did not even land at that sacred shrine down the hill called Plymouth Rock, a monument to racism and oppression which we are proud to say we buried, not once, but twice in 1970 and again in 1995.

Upon first arriving, the pilgrims opened my ancestors' graves and took our corn and bean supplies. Later, from the very harbor we can see from here, the English sold my ancestors as slaves for 220 shillings each.

The first official "Day of Thanksgiving" was proclaimed in 1637 by Governor Winthrop. He did so to celebrate the safe return of men from Massachusetts who had gone to Mystic, Connecticut to participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot women, children, and men.

About the only true thing in the whole mythology is that these pitiful European strangers would not have survived their first several years in "New England" were it not for the aid of Wampanoag people. What Native people got in return for this help was genocide, theft of our lands, and never-ending repression.

Some would ask what we have gained by observing National Day of Mourning since 1970. The very fact that you are here is perhaps our greatest gain. We have brought together people from the four directions that have seen through the Pilgrim myth and want to join the struggle to destroy that mythology.

A few words of caution however. The powers that be do not like to see us all come together in strength and unity. It scares them. We are like a hand. If the fingers remain apart they can easily be broken. But, if they join together to form a fist, they cannot be broken. We have truly made a fist that cannot be broken...



posted at 2:26 AM

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