Articles from the Boston Compass, This Month in Counter-Cultural History



Written by Neil Horsky, this column was originally published in the November 2014 issue of the Boston Compass

Art by Joseph Rader, “We’ll Give You Either One”

Every Thanksgiving Day since 1970 the Jamaica Plain-based United American Indians of New England (UAINE) organize the National Day of Mourning in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Native people and their allies protest against the falsification, sterilization, and mythicization of the Pilgrim Thanksgiving story, and the misinformation regarding Native culture, colonization and genocide.

During the November 27, 1997 National Day of Mourning 25 protesters were arrested by State and local police. Known as the Plymouth 25, the defendants received considerable public support in the form of petitions, letters, and an economic boycott of the Town of Plymouth. Facing a public backlash that threatened the Town’s robust tourism industry, on October 18, 1998 Plymouth reached an unprecedented settlement with UAINE. The Town dropped all charges against the Plymouth 25 and agreed to allow demonstrations every Thanksgiving Day in perpetuity without permits. Among other concessions, Plymouth contributed $100,000 to the Metacom Education Fund to teach accurate Native history in New England, and funded the installation of two plaques downtown.

The text for these plaques was written by UAINE and approved in its entirety by the Massachusetts Historical Society. One plaque honors the National Day of Mourning on Cole’s Hill. The other in Post Office Square honors Metacomet, son of Massasoit who greeted the Pilgrims, called King Philip by the colonists, leader of the Wampanoag uprising known as King Philip’s War 55 years after Plymouth Rock. The following are excerpts from each:

“…Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their culture…”

“…Metacomet was murdered in Rhode Island in August 1676, and his body was mutilated. His head was impaled on a pike and was displayed near this site for more than 20 years. One hand was sent to Boston, the other to England. Metacomet’s wife and son, along with the families of many of the Native American combatants, were sold into slavery in the West Indies by the English victors…”

The Plymouth 25 settlement marks a victory for all oppressed peoples struggling for justice and the liberation of their past as well as present. The United American Indians of New England have vowed to continue to protest on the National Day of Mourning until “the oppression of Two-Spirited people is a thing of the past.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License(unless otherwise indicated) © 2019