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FunTimes Magazine

“Unthanksgiving Day” For Native Americans

Nov 28, 2022 11:00AM ● By Karen Warrington

Indigenous People recognized Thanksgiving as a Day of Mourning.

“It is a time to remember ancestral history

 as well as a day to acknowledge

and protest the racism and oppression

which they continue to experience today.”

While the Day of Mourning still takes place in Plymouth, Massachusetts, there are variations of the protest throughout the nation, including “Unthanksgiving Day”, held in San Francisco.

So, Thanksgiving 2022 has ended and the turkey will probably be used for sandwiches for the remainder of the week. And, this might be an opportune time for African American families who celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday to separate fact from fiction about the 1621 harvest feast that European immigrants and Wampanoag people held in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts. And, hopefully our Black families will remember that the first enslaved Africans were brought across the Atlantic two years before, in 1619, to what were British colonies.

A statue of Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag, in Plymouth.

American historians tell us the Europeans were colonists and the historians don’t emphasize that these colonists or immigrants had come by ship across the Atlantic Ocean to what was the land of the Wampanoag people. And, it is widely acknowledged that the European immigrants may not have survived on these shores without Tisquantum, a member of the Patuxet wing of the Wampanoag people who spoke English. He is credited with acting as an interpreter and helped the English immigrants hunt and gather food. Tisquantum had been kidnapped on a British ship en route to a market in Spain where Africans were enslaved. He escaped from Spain, lived in England and worked on a ship captained by the Newfoundland Colony’s governor before making it back to his home and his Patuxet people.

It is also important for African Americans to examine the early experience of that first Thanksgiving as the Wampanoag native-to-the land people welcomed the Europeans and what followed that welcoming. It’s important because the displacement or removal of the indigenous people from their land is today being replicated in urban spaces where Black people have lived since they were enslaved and brought to America in chains.

Today, whether in Oakland, California; Harlem, New York; Washington, DC or Philadelphia, Black people are being displaced or removed from their urban homelands throughout the nation. It is now referred to as gentrification. In the 1950s it was called urban renewal when it was really Negro removal that obliterated intact Black neighborhoods and thriving business areas to make way for highways and public works projects.

Remember also, the Trail of Tears that is officially explained as, “… a series of displacements of approximately 100,000 American Indians between 1830 and 1850 by the U.S.” The Federal government acting on behalf of White settlers who wanted to grow cotton on Indian-owned land; forcing them to leave their homelands and walk hundreds of miles to a specially designated “Indian Territory” across the Mississippi River. Hundreds died.

Hopefully, whenever our families come together in celebration, with or without turkey, we commit to taking the time to share the reality of American history and its continuing impact on our lives and the lives of our allies. There’s a whole lot of history from 1619 until 2022 that remains hidden.

 Karen Warrington has had a decades long career as a broadcast journalist, communications professional, performing artist, and documentary filmmaker. She has traveled extensively throughout Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. She is committed to being a voice for the African Diaspora.

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