A National Day of Mourning

From the Desk of Chairman Boyd

Boozhoo all my relatives, 

While the U.S. ‘Thanksgiving’ holiday is meant to recognize the arrival of pilgrims or European settlers, and a time to be thankful for what we all have – this day reminds many of us across Indian Country of the genocide our ancestors endured, the theft of our ancestral lands, and the relentless assault on our cultures.

I encourage all to practice appreciation and gratitude. However, on this National Day of Mourning, we must honor our ancestors and the struggles our people face simply surviving to this day. This is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection. Although great strides have been made, this is still a day to protest the racism and oppression our people continue to experience.

This National Day of Mourning began in 1970 as a way for Indian Country to protest and speak out against the common myths of colonial American history. While we maintain relationships with the U.S. government, we also must continue to speak the truth about colonialism and its impact on our people throughout history.

In 1970, Wampanoag leader Wamsutta Frank James was invited to speak at a dinner marking the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the pilgrims who ended up founding Plymouth Colony. However, Wamsutta was not allowed to read his speech about the abuses his people endured. Wamsutta did not attend, and instead joined with other Native leaders to organize a protest. This marked the first National Day of Mourning, which now is an annual event on ‘Thanksgiving Day.’

Please enjoy this time with family and friends. Also, join us in continuing to correct common myths about the relationship between our ancestors and European colonists. As Wamsutta explained in 1970, “What has happened cannot be changed, but we must work towards a more humane America.”

Christopher Boyd
Chairman, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe