Day of Thanks, Day of Mourning

Nov 24, 2022 | PDA News

In solidarity with our brothers and sisters and Mother Earth,
Debra Schrishuhn for the PDA National Team


Reflections on America’s Day of Thanks and Mourning


I love Thanksgiving. I love the idea of taking time to reflect on the bounties of nature, the vicissitudes of life, and spontaneous kindnesses of strangers, colleagues, friends, and family. I love the communal meal steeped in tradition, and there I begin to have trouble with this American holiday, with its manipulated narrative of peaceful interaction between Indigenous Peoples and recently arrived Europeans (none of whom had proper “papers” upon entry).

When Thanksgiving is framed as the Wampanoag people welcoming hapless English refugees at Plymouth—a fictive account promulgated two centuries later during the American Civil War—it becomes extremely problematic. During those two centuries, European settlers invaded Native lands, slaughtered Native families, and destroyed resources needed for survival of the Indigenous inhabitants of what became the Colonies, and then the United States of America. After the Civil War ended, Union generals took their battle-hardened troops westward, wreaking destruction on Native populations and herding people onto so-called reservations.

It’s a bloody and shameful series of chapters in American history that we have not dealt with nor reconciled particularly well, to say the least. So, the question becomes, should we end the Thanksgiving holiday because of the fictitious overlay of pseudo-harmony and subsequent white-washing of history that it conveys? Should we replace it, as the United American Indians of New England (UAINE) have done since 1970, with a National Day of Mourning honoring Native ancestors and their struggles to survive today, and educating Americans about the actual history of the holiday? Can we reframe this American holiday to include Indigenous Peoples, European “settlers” (itself a problematic term), and the continuing waves of immigrants from around the world seeking a better life on these shores?

On this Thanksgiving Day 2022, PDA celebrates the ideals of a national day of giving thanks, recognizing shared values across the kaleidoscope of cultural identities that make up these United States. We reflect on our past—both good and bad—even as we recommit ourselves to building that “more perfect union” and making a future where all people are respected, appreciated, and provided with the tools for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”


1 Comment

  1. Catharine C Volpe

    Pilamayaye khola iya wowicakhe’….
    Thank you friend for speaking truth.