A Reflection for National Day of Mourning
I agreed to write a blog for the National Day of Mourning on Nov. 25, 2021, which is Thanksgiving Day, without knowing anything about the history of the special day in the United States.
I was very grateful for the gift of technology and for National Today which gave me some significant facts about this day. And, in light of our recent Chapter decision to focus on racism as our justice issue for the next five years, I feel called to pass on to you what I have learned about this day.
“The National Day of Mourning reminds us all that Thanksgiving is only part of the story. Native Americans, since 1970, have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts. They commemorate a National Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving Day.
“Pilgrims landed in Plymouth and established the first colony in 1620. As such, it’s the oldest municipality in New England. Many Native Americans, however, don’t celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. Thanksgiving, to them, is a brutal reminder of ‘the genocide of millions of Native people. A reminder of the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture.’”
Honoring Native Peoples
In addition, the National Day of Mourning as a way to 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 which Native Americans continue to experience.”
The United American Indians of New England (UAINE) sponsors this event. They maintain that the Pilgrims arrived in North America and claimed tribal land for their own. They did not establish a mutually beneficial relationship with the local inhabitants. UAINE members believe that these settlers “introduced sexism, racism, anti-homosexual bigotry, jails, and the class system.”
The National Day of Mourning generally begins at noon and includes a march through the Historic District of Plymouth. The UAINE encourages people of all backgrounds to attend the protests. But only Native speakers give speeches about the past and about current obstacles.
Guests bring non-alcoholic beverages, desserts, fresh fruits and vegetables, or pre-cooked items. The protest is open to anyone, and has attracted other minority activists.
A History Lesson
This National Day of Mourning is important. It serves as an important history lesson, not only for protesters to advocate for what they believe in, but also for all of us to remind us that the Thanksgiving holiday is very painful for many Native Americans.
And for me, understanding the history of this special day of remembrance has led me to also reflect once more on the words of Jesus, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4). These words, found in the Beatitudes, clearly remind me once again that mourning the loss of loved ones is an ongoing sacred journey throughout our lives.
And, that our hearts which ache because of the absence of deceased loved ones, especially at holiday time, are both broken and blessed by our grief and mourning.
I pray then, that on this 2021 Thanksgiving Day, each of us will take time to remember and honor all of our deceased loved ones in some significant ways.
And, in union with the Native Americans in New England who honor their Native ancestors on this National Day of Mourning, may we also experience a spiritual connection with all who have died that we mourn at this holiday time.