National Day of Mourning
"Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole's Hill in Plymouth to commemorate National Day of Mourning on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their cultures. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience."
~ Plaque Erected by the Town of Plymouth on behalf of the United American Indians of New England
Thanksgiving this year feels especially complex and multilayered, which isn’t unlike life. As in past years, the theme of gratitude and the plethora of sale emails have been permeating the last several days. But this year isn’t like other years. The CDC asks us to limit gatherings and not to travel, a pandemic has taken precious loved ones from us, many are struggling to put food on the table, and society is at a cultural turning point. This feels like the perfect time to practice embracing life as the paradox it is.
The tableau of Thanksgiving is rooted in historical misrepresentation and societal expectations. Throw in a pandemic and this year's Thanksgiving is likely something most of us haven't experienced. Maybe you are enjoying the holiday without the pressure to gather or go from house to house, or possibly you are mourning the loss of your traditions and are looking forward to a time when life "returns to normal." There is room for everyone in the emotional continuum of the day, which I hope also includes some learning and unlearning around the historical roots of the holiday. I write this newsletter on the land of the Myaamia, Shawnee, and Osage Peoples along with the Indigenous people of the Hopewell and Adeena whose earthworks are visited throughout my area. We live on land that is steeped in community, honoring, and conflict. For many, this is not an easy part of the holiday to reconcile. But that doesn't mean we have to turn away. As Glennon Doyle says "we can do hard things." In my continued learning around the holiday, I came across the National Day of Mourning. The words on the commemorative plaque is above. I share these words because of the clarity of the heartfelt, reality-cutting message. We can do hard things and not turn away from the historical realities of day. We have the ability to embrace and honor the complexities of this day. Maybe in addition to gratitude we can also make Thanksgiving a day of learning and reverence.
I want to acknowledge that this year may be especially hard due to the loss of traditions and the loss of loved ones that we will never kiss and hug again. The personal grief compounded by the urgency of society to examine our history of enslavement, genocide, and racism is a lot to hold. Now is the time to be kind and gentle with ourselves. Learning and unlearning doesn’t have to happen all at one time. It can be done sip by sip. Contradictory emotions can be experienced at the same moment. Honoring your own complexity gives space to honor the world’s complexity. Simple and complex – life is both. So on this day of giving thanks, I would like to extend my deep gratitude for this community's willingness to show up, do hard things, learn, grow, and provide space for this woman’s most unusual new age musings. And as always, if you need support, I am here. Please reach out.