For the past 42 years, members and supporters of the United American Indians of New England (UAINE) have assembled every Thanksgiving at Cole’s Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to commemorate a National Day of Mourning.
Established in 1970, the National Day of Mourning aims to publically combat the erroneous stories and miscomprehensions engulfing the First Thanksgiving. Born as the result of “the suppression of the truth,” according to UAINE’s website, the day is also meant to mourn the loss of the millions of American Indians who have died as a result of European settlement.
This year’s 43rd commemoration, scheduled for noon Thursday, is dedicated to American Indian Movement leader and political prisoner Leonard Peltier. Peltier, whose next parole hearing is scheduled for 2024, has been in various federal penitentiaries since his first-degree murder conviction in 1977.
Moonanum James, UAINE co-leader, and a member of the Wampanoag Nation, said that Peltier has sent UAINE a statement to be read at the rally every year since the 1980s.
“One of our elders, Burt Waters, [who ’s] Wampanoag, will read that,” he said.
Provided by Peltier’s family to members of UAINE by email, James said they will typically receive Peltier’s comments the morning of the march and rally.
“It’s a very short statement,” he said. “It might take about a page. … [It’s a] statement of solidarity. Don’t back down. Don’t give in.”
James said that at noon UAINE will hold a “speak out” at Cole’s Hill where he expects 400 to 500 people to attend, weather permitting.
Following the speak out, the participants will march up the historic district of Plymouth on Main Street, which bisects the life-size replica of the historic Mayflower vessel. The march will end at Post Office Square.
According to the UAINE website, organizers of the march are not required to request a permit from the city as long as UAINE provides city officials several days notice.
James said the City of Plymouth is “very supportive” and that there has been only one time prior where police have attended the march.
He said that in 1997, 25 people were arrested during the National Day of Mourning.
“We’re not there to cause a problem,” he said. “[We’re there to] liberate the street for just a while.”
A rally at Plymouth Rock will immediately follow the march and will include speakers of American Indian parentage. A potluck social will follow the day’s events.
Watch a video of last year’s National Day of Mourning put together by Democracy Now here: