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Indigenous-led demonstration in Plymouth marks National Day of Mourning

National Day of Mourning
By Melissa Doroquez - bit.ly/3U4A4T1, bit.ly/3XnXDcp
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National Day of Mourning Plaque

As families across the country celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday, many Indigenous people and supporters will observe the National Day of Mourning, founded in Plymouth in 1970.

Organizers say the event is both spiritual and political — a remembering of the genocide of their ancestors and the theft of Native land.

Starting at noon, United American Indians of New England will lead a prayer service at the statue of Massasoit Ousamequin, across the street from Plymouth Rock, followed by a speaking program and march.

Jean-Luc Pierite, board president of the North American Indian Center of Boston, said it’s a day to correct the historical record and support Indigenous communities.

“We're talking about the historical wounds, the intergenerational trauma, but also mourning what is happening to our community today, and uplifting the people that are on those front lines and fostering solutions,” he said.

He said many Indigenous people are on the front lines of racial, social, economic, and climate justice.

“For everybody, .. but especially for Indigenous peoples,” Pierite said, “come to Plymouth for the National Day of Mourning, be in community with us, and let's find ways to build with each other towards a more empowered future.”

Samantha Maltais, a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah, plans to speak at a stop along the march.

She said the National Day of Mourning is not only about recognizing history, but also about understanding that "legacies of that history ... still afflict our communities today.”

Maltais is a student at Harvard Law School and the first member of the Wampanoag Tribe to attend the school.

She said one present-day issue is the pending Supreme Court case that could overturn the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Among other things, the Act gives adoption preference to Native families for the adoption of a Native child, to prevent the separation of children from their culture.

Masks are required at the Plymouth event for the National Day of Mourning. Organizers have asked the public not to photograph or record the prayer portion of the program.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.

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