A plaque at Cole’s Hills recognize the first Wampanoag protest in calling for a national day of mourning in Plymouth. It reads:
“Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression that Native Americans continue to experience.”
The Wampanoag Indians take this day to remember their ancestors. However, today is a celebration of the American holiday of Thanksgiving. Universities and colleges close down for the week to give faculty and students a time to rest and to reunite with their families and friends. Employers, banks, schools, stores, and local vendors also take the week off to get ready for the Thanksgiving celebration. Every year without fail, I hear people talk about their Thanksgiving plans, family reunions, turkey, and football games. Yes, it’s wonderful to set a day apart to reunite with loved ones and give thanks to the Creator for life.
But then I think about it: Why am I celebrating Thanksgiving? What am I thankful for? What is the real story behind the first encounter between the Pilgrims and Indians? The Wampanoag summarize it as follows:
“When the Pilgrims arrived, we, the Wampanoags, welcomed them with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end. That before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a tribe. That we and other Indians living near the settlers would be killed by their guns or dead from diseases that we caught from them. Let us always remember, the Indian is and was just as human as the white people.”
Today is a day or mourning. This day we remember our ancestors who lost their land with a good fight. We remember their stories, their traditions, their ceremonies, and their rituals. We remember their struggle to keep us alive.We remember that it’s still not over: the discrimination, the racism, the dividing of lands, the exploiting of resources, the polluting of the air and water. We remember we are here to protect our planet and ourselves as our ancestors did.
I am thankful that my Indigenous relatives and ancestors who made it possible for me come to this world with air in my lungs and food in my stomach. I am thankful that they secured our ancestral lands in Santa Elena Peninsula and passed down our culture, tradition, and stories. I am thankful and proud of my Indigenous identity and will honor them for all the struggle, pain, and hurt. I am thankful for all of my Indigenous brothers and sisters who formed part of the resistance in the past and still resist in the present. I am thankful to Pachamama and Tayta Dios for my everyday life. I am thankful for all of this and for so much more, and I do not need a weekend to remind myself of all these wonderful things. Our tradition taught us that we need to keep our ancestors, our relatives, our Mother Earth and Tayta Dios in our minds and hearts everyday of our lives.