Many Native Americans have a different name for Thanksgiving. They call it the National Day of Mourning. The Wampanoag people have a special connection to this day of protest, meant to bring attention to the aftermath of that storied meal between the Pilgrims and their very own ancestors. The U.S. has been celebrating Thanksgiving in some form or another since it became a country in the late 1770s. It was approximately two centuries later that Frank James, a Wampanoag leader, was asked not to speak at an event in Massachusetts memorializing Thanksgiving. His speech was considered contradictory to the spirit of the event and the day. He didn’t leave out unsavory, unpalatable portions of the Thanksgiving story and it left the white people in attendance with no appetite. The United American Indians of New England continue to organize this day of protest to educate people regarding the history of the Wampanoag people and the hardships that Native Americans face. They also hope their words will unravel the whitewashed story permeating Thanksgiving. There are at least 45 Pilgrims from the Mayflower with living descendants. Since their arrival centuries ago, their family names are remembered and their Pilgrim narrative given more weight. A branch of the Mayflower Society exists in every state with the purpose of spreading the history of the Pilgrims and celebrating their progeny nationally. The National Day of Mourning is time for Native Americans to grieve the children that could have been and their loved ones with stories left untold or told by others in ways that diminish or downplay necessary truths.
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