Home Local News National Day of Mourning and Unthanksgiving Day to be observed during Native American Heritage Month               

National Day of Mourning and Unthanksgiving Day to be observed during Native American Heritage Month               

by Cass Teague
Sunrise Gathering at Alcatraz Island, November 2013. Listen to this year’s UnThanksgiving live Thursday, November 23 on the KPFA FM 94.1 WEBSITE: www.kpfa.org 5-8 am PST / 7-10 am CST.  (Photo courtesy International Indian Treaty Council)

November was officially designated as National American Indian Heritage Month on August 3, 1990, now commonly referred to as Native American Heritage Month, to provide a platform for Native people in the United States to share their culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance, and ways and concepts of life.  Native people express to their community, both city, county, and state officials their concerns and solutions for building bridges of understanding and friendship in their local area.

Thanksgiving Day to many is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands and the erasure of Native cultures. Since 1970, Indigenous people & their allies have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the US Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native people do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims & other European settlers. 

Sunrise Gathering at Alcatraz Island, November 2013. Listen to this year’s UnThanksgiving live Thursday, November 23 on the KPFA FM 94.1 WEBSITE: www.kpfa.org 5-8 am PST / 7-10 am CST.  (Photo courtesy International Indian Treaty Council)

Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Indigenous ancestors and Native resilience. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection, as well as a protest against the racism and oppression that Indigenous people continue to experience worldwide.

The 54th Annual National Day of Mourning is Thursday, November 23, 2023, beginning at 12:00 Noon EST at Cole’s Hill, Plymouth, MA. You can watch the National Day of Mourning livestream anytime on the United American Indians of New England / UAINE.org website: http://www.uaine.org/ 

Unthanksgiving Day (or Un-Thanksgiving Day), also known as The Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Ceremony, is held on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay to honor the indigenous peoples of the Americas and promote their rights. Every year on the date of the United States Thanksgiving holiday, several thousand indigenous people and spectators travel to Alcatraz Island. Groups dance before sunrise, to honor their ancestors, while other groups demonstrate other aspects of their cultures and heritage and speak out for the rights of their people. The celebration is also open to the public.

It is designed to commemorate the survival of Indian tribes following the European colonization of the Americas, in contrast and counter-celebration to the traditional American Thanksgiving in which the Pilgrims shared a meal with the Wampanoag tribe.

The Alcatraz ceremony, organized by the International Indian Treaty Council and American Indian Contemporary Arts, has been held annually since 1975 to commemorate the protest event of 1969, where the Alcatraz-Red Power Movement (ARPM) occupied the island. In 1969, a number of Native American members of the Alcatraz-Red Power Movement group Indians of All Tribes (IAT) occupied the island of Alcatraz, under the terms of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie that allocated surplus government land to Native Americans. The occupation lasted for 19 months, from November 20, 1969, to June 11, 1971.

Members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), inspired by the occupation, led other protests, the first on Thanksgiving in 1970 when they painted Plymouth Rock red, which continues as the National Day of Mourning. The US government ended the Alcatraz occupation with force. During the occupation, hundreds of Native Americans joined the movement to speak out for their rights. This was part of a heavy period of Indian activism and protest at a time when the civil rights movement in the United States amongst minorities was at a height.

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