On the annual holiday when most Americans gather around the table with family and friends to enjoy a delicious home cooked meal, many others gather for the “National Day of Mourning” and “Unthanksgiving Day”. These two ceremonies, although different, originate from the same root of opposing the national holiday of Thanksgiving. While the majority of the country may be thankful for what they have, the holiday originated from the interaction early settlers with Native Americans after a particularly difficult harvest season. Many people are ignorant towards the group of people who don’t celebrate the adored holiday.
Starting in 1970 Native Americans and supporters gather at Cole’s Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts commemorating the National Day of Mourning, since many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of European settlers. The day does not celebrate the genocide and assault of Natives, as well as being kicked off of their land. People (Natives and any other supporters are welcome) gather at noon and begin to march through the town, as only Natives speak about their history and their current struggles. This year the march occurred on November 24 and was dedicated to those at #StandingRock #NoDAPL and the movement of Indigenous Peoples Day.
Unthanksgiving Day also known as The Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Ceremony, held on the San Francisco Bay on Alcatraz Island. The gathering has been annual since 1975, Alcatraz Island is now a symbol for struggle and hope for Natives. After the infamous penitentiary closed in 1963 American Indians petitioned to the government to make it “Indian Island”. From 1969 to 1971 a group called the Alcatraz Red Power Movement or “Indians of All Tribes” took over Alcatraz Island. The Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Ceremony commemorates this occupation. The event also exists because the groups don’t celebrate the genocide that Thanksgiving does, since the occupation was over land rights and the treatment of Native Americans in the United States. For some they go to Alcatraz to celebrate their personal relationship with nature. Starting from 4:45 am to 6 am people take ferries to the Island, and all visitors must leave the Island at 8:45 am.
Even though the meaning of Thanksgiving has changed over time, from celebrating the arrival of Pilgrims to North America to having a day to spend with family and friends, for a portion of the population it’s a day to stand up for their ancestors, their heritage, and their rights.
IMAGE COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA