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No Thanks: Native Americans Mark Thanksgiving With Sadness

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While the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday, some Americans are marking the day with sadness.

The United American Indians of New England call the national holiday a National Day of Mourning. They will mark the day in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the place where some of North America's first European settlers landed.

Organizers describe the event as a time to remember "the genocide of millions of native people, the theft of native lands and the relentless assault on native culture."

Native American groups have been holding the National Day of Mourning since 1970. But they say their message is especially urgent this year. That is because the town of Plymouth is getting ready to hold a number of events marking the settlers' arrival. The Pilgrims first landed in the Native Americans' land, what is now Massachusetts, nearly 400 years ago.

As the anniversary nears, ancestors of the native people who met the Pilgrims want to make sure the world hears the whole story. The Wampanoag tribe helped the European settlers survive. Its members say the settlers brought diseases, racism and oppression.

What happens on the National Day of Mourning?

This year, on November 28, people taking part in the National Day of Mourning will gather at mid-day on Cole's Hill. The hill overlooks Plymouth Rock, a memorial to the colonists' arrival. The area also has a large statue of the Wampanoag leader in 1620.

At the gathering, Native Americans from tribes around New England will beat drums, offer prayers and read speeches. Then they will march through the streets of Plymouth, joined by like-minded supporters.

Organizers say that this year, the marchers will call attention to the situation of missing and murdered native women. They will also note government action on migrants from Latin America and the detentions of children. The organizers have already made signs saying, "We didn't cross the border – the border crossed us!"

How have the events affected ideas about Thanksgiving?

Francis Bremer is an expert on the Pilgrims and professor emeritus of history at Millersville University in Pennsylvania. He thinks the nation is listening better to what the native groups are saying. He calls their message "a side of the story that's too often been ignored."

Paula Peters is a Wampanoag writer and activist. Peters sees progress in how Americans think about their history. They are starting to look past the false Thanksgiving story about Pilgrims and natives living peacefully together, she says.

She adds that the work of native groups continues to honor their ancestors. They are taking their history out of the margins and moving it to the center of attention.

I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.

William Cole wrote this story for the Associated Press. Kelly Jean Kelly adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

relentlessadj. continuing without becoming weaker, less severe

assault – n. attack or criticism

marginn. the part of a page that is above, below, or to the side of the printed part

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