This article is about the real meaning of Thanksgiving to Native American.
This year marks the 400th anniversary of pilgrims arriving at what’s now known as Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The so-called first Thanksgiving has been celebrated and taught to schoolchildren as the origin story of what would later become the United States. But many Native Americans say Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the slaughter of millions of Indigenous people and the theft of their lands by outsiders.
The United American Indians of New England declared Thanksgiving a National Day of Mourning 50 years ago. In 1970, the descendants of the pilgrims wanted to hold a banquet to celebrate the anniversary of the Mayflower landing in Plymouth and asked a Wampanoag man named Wamsutta Frank James to make a speech, says his granddaughter, Kisha James.
The banquet organizers invited Wamsutta Frank James to speak on one strict condition: He needed to provide a copy of the speech in advance. Under the guise of editing for spelling and grammar, their true motivation was to check the content, Kisha James says.
Excerpt From Wamsutta Frank James’ Speech
“Today we must work towards a more humane America, a more Indian America, where men and nature once again are important, where the Indian values of honor, truth and brotherhood prevail. You, the white man, are celebrating an anniversary. We, the Wampanoags, will help you celebrate in the concept of a new beginning. It was the beginning of a new life for the Pilgrims. Now, 350 years later, it is the beginning of a new determination for the original American, the American Indian. There are some factors concerning the Wampanoags and other Indians across this vast nation. We now have three hundred and fifty years of experience living among the white man. We can now speak his language. We can now think as the white man thinks, we can now compete with him for the top jobs. We're being heard. We are now being listened to. The important point is that along with these necessities of everyday living, we still have the spirit, we still have the unique culture. We still have the will. And most important of all, the determination to remain as Indians. We are determined and our presence here this evening is living testimony that this is only the beginning of the American Indian, particularly the Wampanoag, to regain the position in this country that is rightfully ours.”