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Message-Id: <199612110027.TAA59514@ipe.cc.vt.edu>
Sender: o-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 96 14:17:16 CST
From: Workers World <ww@wwpublish.com>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: Day of Mourning
Article: 2042

Day of mourning: Native protest stops Pilgrim's progress

Workers World, 12 December 1996

Plymouth, Mass.—More than 400 Native people and their supporters seized the streets Nov. 28 and forced the Pilgrims' Progress reenactment to retreat.

The march was well-disciplined and militant. It involved people ranging in age from young children to elders in their 70's.

Native-led, its participants included many African American, Latino, Asian, and white supporters as well. It was the worst nightmare of the town fathers of Plymouth and of its tourism industry.

Since 1970, United American Indians of New England and their supporters have observed the National Day of Mourning in Plymouth. National Day of Mourning is a commemoration of the struggles and history of indigenous peoples from throughout the Americas.


In particular, it targets the mythology perpetuated in Plymouth and throughout the U.S. that the Pilgrims were wonderful people who came to Massachusetts only in search of religious freedom and that Native people lived happily ever after.

According to UAINE co-leader Moonanum James of the Wampanaog nation: The pilgrims came to these shores to establish a capitalist venture and settlement here. They stole land from Native people, were completely intolerant of Native culture and spirituality, and participated in numerous forays where they murdered indigenous people.

In fact, the first official Day of Thanksgiving was declared by Gov. William Bradford in 1637 to celebrate the safe return of members of the Plymouth Colony who went to Connecticut to participate in the massacre of hundreds of Pequots at Mystic.

The National Day of Mourning observance began at noon on Cole's Hill in Plymouth Center with words and prayers from Penobscot elder Sam Sapiel. Native speakers addressed various issues.

Ernie Stevens Sr. (Oneida) and others stressed the need to rededicate ourselves to freeing our brother Leonard Peltier, a Native political prisoner who has been unjustly imprisoned for more than 20 years.

Juan Gonzalez read a statement of solidarity from the Mayan elders, and he and his teenage daughter both noted that there can be no borders in the indigenous struggle.

Ojibwe elder Millie Noble spoke of the terrible conditions facing Native people now, such as high unemployment and continued racist repression by the government.

UAINE co-leader Mahtowin spoke of the loss of a generation of warriors due to the AIDS crisis. She also said that probably the most important thing UAINE did all year was to go to Washington on Oct. 12 to show our solidarity with our immigrant sisters and brothers. How dare these pilgrims in this U.S. government call some people illegal?


Shortly after 1 p.m., the Pilgrims Progress Parade--a re- enactment of the Pilgrims going to church in Plymouth with muskets and bibles in hand--kicked off and marched to the site of Plymouth Rock, immediately down the hill from where the National Day of Mourning participants were gathered.

Since 1921, the march has been held in the morning. The change of time this year was a slap in the face to UAINE organizers, as it happened right in the middle of National Day of Mourning observance.

Instantly, UAINE leaders called for everyone to form into a line to march, with the women and children leading the way. The march went down a block and swung into the street where the pilgrims had begun to ascend the hill.

At first, the pilgrims continued forward, but then they stopped as it quickly became clear to them that they were vastly outnumbered and outmaneuvered, even with dozens of cops protecting them.

Every time the cops tried to grab the leadership of the UAINE march, a swarm of protesters immediately separated the cops from the leadership. The Plymouth cops didn't know what had hit them.

The UAINE march then continued up the hill, blocking the major intersection at Main Street. The cops allowed the Pilgrims to go down Main Street. Then the UAINE marchers turned on a dime, quickly reversed their direction and followed behind the pilgrims, chanting, Pilgrims progress we say no, racism has got to go!

The pilgrims were forced to cancel the rest of their activities and retreated to the Mayflower Society house.


UAINE leaders then shouted, Let's go to the rock! And the march proceed ed to Plymouth Rock. Children were invited to come forward and take a swing at racism by striking a Pilgrim piñ ata.

Once the piñata was broken open, the children found inside symbols of the oppression that the pilgrims had brought with them: money, police badges, toy soldiers, handcuffs and chains representing the enslavement of African- Americans and the oppression of women, and alcohol ads representing the government's use of alcohol and drugs such as crack to destroy the oppressed communities.

These were thrown down on Plymouth rock, and a number of protesters then spat on the rock to show their hatred for that symbol.

The lead banner UAINE used for the march sums up the day perfectly. It shows the four directions--red, black, yellow, and white--representing all of humanity and says: We are not vanishing. We are not conquered. We are as strong as ever.