Social History for Every Classroom


Social History for Every Classroom

menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

Indigenous Activists Designate "A Day of Mourning" (1973)

Many Native Americans consider Thanksgiving a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. Starting in 1970, the United American Indians of New England began to recognize the fourth Thursday in November as the National Day of Mourning. On that day, they gathered to remember the struggles of Native peoples to survive, and protest the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience. This article describes a 1972 protest by Indigenous activists in Plymouth, Massachusetts, a site associated with the arrival of British settlers in 1621.

This year, as in recent past years, the Indians have protested on the site of that sacred symbol of Thanksgiving itself, Plymouth Rock. Twelve New England tribes, joined by supporters, designated the day “A Day of Mourning,” held a series of non-violent protests….

About 200 native people were there, and after a round of speeches at the statue of Chief Massasoit, the group moved to the Mayflower, which was boarded with official permission. Several young Indians climbed to the top of two 110-foot masts and replaced two British flags commonly flown by English merchant ships during the 17th century with a blue-silk banner bearing a red teepee design. Between 35 and 40 policemen watched from the dock….

When a group of whites wearing 17th century costumes marched through the streets representing the 50 pilgrims who survived the first winter the Indians followed behind, chanting: “Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal.”

Frank James, president of the Federated Eastern Indian League and a leader of the United American Indians of New England, said that the protest and mourning was for the oppression of native peoples.

The assembly, he said, “is indicting the hypocrisy of a system which glorifies repression. They also symbolize a unity which will enable us to regain our losses to the extent that is human and possible.”

Source | "1621-1972 White Amerikas Feast --- Our Famine." Akwesasne Notes, Early Winter, 1973, 38. Indigenous Peoples of North America.
Item Type | Newspaper/Magazine
Cite This document | “Indigenous Activists Designate "A Day of Mourning" (1973) ,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed February 29, 2024,

Print and Share