National Day of Mourning – November 28, 2019

Wed Nov 27

What is the National Day of Mourning

The National Day of Mourning takes place on the fourth Thursday of November. If this date sounds familiar to you, it’s because the fourth Thursday of November also coincides with Thanksgiving in the U.S. Every year on the National Day of Mourning, Native American people in New England gather together to protest. To them, Thanksgiving serves as a reminder of the unjust treatment that Native Americans have received since the 1620 Plymouth landing.

History of the National Day of Mourning

The National Day of Mourning reminds us all that Thanksgiving is only part of the story. Native Americans, since 1970, have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving Day. 
 
Pilgrims landed in Plymouth and established the first colony in 1620. As such, it’s the oldest municipality in New England. Many Native Americans, however, don’t celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. Thanksgiving, to them, is a brutal reminder of “the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture.” 
 
They participate as a way to honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. “It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.”
 
The United American Indians of New England (UAINE) sponsors this event. They maintain that the Pilgrims arrived in North America and claimed tribal land for their own, as opposed to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with the local inhabitants. UAINE members believe that these settlers “introduced sexism, racism, anti-homosexual bigotry, jails, and the class system.”
 
The National Day of Mourning generally begins at noon and includes a march through the historic district of Plymouth. While the UAINE encourages people of all backgrounds to attend the protests, only Native speakers are invited to give these speeches about the past, as well as current obstacles their people have overcome. Guests are asked to bring non-alcoholic beverages, desserts, fresh fruits and vegetables, or pre-cooked items. The protest is open to anyone, and has attracted other minority activists.

National Day of Mourning timeline

​1998

No permit needed​

UAINE receives permission from local authorities to march in protest without having to obtain a permit. ​

​1997

Protests got violent​

State troopers use force against protesters who gathered together to observe the 28th annual National Day of Mourning. ​

​1970

National Day of Mourning began

The first annual protest for the National Day of Mourning takes place.​

​1620

Pilgrims arrived​

English separatist Puritans, who had broken away from the Church of England, land at Plymouth Rock. Today we refer to them as Pilgrims.

National Day of Mourning FAQs

What really happened in 1621?

The Pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest by firing guns and cannons in Plymouth. The noise alarmed ancestors of the Wampanoag Nation who went to investigate. That is how native people came to be present at the first Thanksgiving
 

Are federal offices closed on a national day of mourning?

U.S. government offices are closed on the National Day of Mourning due to the Thanksgiving holiday.
 

What happens on the National Day of Mourning?

Native Americans and supporters gather in Plymouth to “mourn our ancestors and the genocide of our peoples and the theft of our lands.”
 

How to Observe National Day of Mourning

  1. Brush up on your history

    Do you know much about the first Thanksgiving? Do some research online, stop by your local library, or watch a documentary that will help give you a better understanding of what Native Americans actually went through.

  2. Learn more about the United American Indians of New England (UAINE)

    UAINE is responsible for helping the National Day of Mourning protest take shape. To observe this important day, take some time to learn about about the UAINE. It's a fascinating organization that has done a great deal to promote better treatment for the Native American people.

  3. Attend a protest

    Protesters gather on Cole's Hill, a location overlooking Plymouth Rock, in Massachusetts. Everyone is welcome to observe these gatherings, and recently, other minority groups have started to become involved in the events of this day.

​4 Reasons To Thank Native Americans

  1. ​They've been here a while

    Native Americans have existed in what is now known as the United States since 12,000 BC. ​

  2. ​Thank you for your service

    Although they were not considered American citizens, over 8,000 Native Americans served in the military in World War I. ​

  3. Your great-grandma is who?

    ​Many of the first families who settled in Virginia trace their roots directly back to Pocahontas.

  4. An important vocabulary lesson

    A bunch of Native American words have made their way into the English language; for example, coyote, tomato, poncho, potato, and chia.​

Why National Day of Mourning is Important

  1. It serves as an important history lesson

    Textbooks often glaze over the unjust treatment of Native Americans. The National Day of Mourning, however, is a reminder that the people native to the Americas have been the recipients of a great deal of unfair treatment. It's important to discuss.

  2. It's a time to come together

    For protesters, the National Day of Mourning serves as a time to rally together to advocate for what they believe in. UAINE has worked to improve relations between the government and native people.

  3. It shifts our attention away from turkey

    Yes, Thanksgiving can be a great day filled with tons of good food and time spent with loving family and friends. However, the mission behind the National Day of Mourning is to highlight that the Thanksgiving holiday is actually quite painful for some people. For quite a few Native Americans in New England, Thanksgiving marks a time when their ancestors were treated poorly.