Thanksgiving is in US holiday for one, day of mourning for the other

โ€œWe want the real history to be told in schools. It hasnt been nice and we shouldnt describe it too horrific in the textbooks, but kids need to know what really happened during and after the first Thanksgiving.โ€

According to the Wampanoags, the indigenous people who welcomed the pilgrims from Europe 400 years ago, there were no turkeys. And no Indians with headdresses either. In fact, contrary to what many Americans think, the tribe was not even invited to that first harvest party in 1621, when those religious refugees – in England they were persecuted – celebrated Thanksgiving 400 years ago, it looked very different from the family celebration celebrated in the United States today.

For the Wampanoags, who helped pilgrim fathers survive that first year, it led to the beginning of genocide, of occupation of their country and the erasure of their culture. What is a national holiday for the rest of America is the National Day of Mourning for the Wampanoags and other indigenous tribes.

โ€œWe are the first people in this country. And the memory of what happened can be painful. We are marginalized and erased. Sometimes we feel invisible. But we want to show people that were still there, were not gone,โ€ says Chairman Melissa Ferreti of the tribe Herring Pond Wampanoag.

In their clubhouse, she is explaining her deerskin skirt. This afternoon, during the National Day of Mourning, as the indigenous call Thanksgiving, she will recite a prayer for their ancestors and, in a short speech, honoring their country, to which they feel so connected.

Shes a little nervous because its going to be her first time. โ€œI want to emphasize above all that our ancestors did not let their oppressors in like a bunch of naivals. I want to remove the impression that the English were superior to us, that they would have given us a better life. The opposite is true. We helped them.โ€

Forced assimilation

The Wampanoags have been living in the area around the Cape Cod peninsula in the state of Massachusetts for at least ten thousand years. They lived on the hunt for deer, bears and moose in the woods, and fisted for herring and trout. They have also been trading with the Europeans since 1524. When they saw the ship de Mayflower with women and children arriving on board in 1620, they soon understood that the relationship with the Europeans would change permanently.

They helped the newcomers through the first difficult year, but there was no question of gratitude. The Wampanoags were only present at the harvest party during that first Thanksgiving because someone shot their musket in the air and they thought the war had broken out. They brought five deer and probably cranberries. That was the last joint party.

Like other Indian tribes, many Wampanoags died of diseases, and the genocide. The colonizers introduced a bid-or-die policy: those who did not convert to Christianity had to flee or were killed. Their common land was split up, they had to pay taxes and the children were sent to boarding schools, where their hair was cut off and they were no longer allowed to speak their language. A forced assimilation under the motto โ€œKill the Indian, save man.โ€

The elderly in the tribe still have trouble recovering their original language, because they were forced to forget it. In the meantime, a lesson program has been set up to teach the children nothings. But the tribe wants more: โ€œAs a tribe, we are still not recognized by the federal government. With the colonization, colonial laws were introduced. As a result, we miss out on support and, for example, we also received the corona vaccine much later than our brothers and sisters in other tribes that have been recognized. It is wry that we, the original inhabitants of this country, are not recognized.โ€

Not only did the indigenous people walked through the streets of Plymouth today, the people who call themselves descendants of the Pilgrims also walked through the city in procession behind a drum. According to them, both versions of history can coexist. โ€œMost atrocities took place after the first harvest feast. Only later. Those things were excessive and that must be acknowledged,โ€ says Paul Jehle of the Mayflower Society.

Cheryl Doherty, also of the Mayflower Society, hopes that the two groups will eventually be able to walk through the streets together. โ€œI would also love it if they could be a part of this. We also invited them in the past.โ€

Not the correct history of origin

In recent years, a debate has been held in the US about the countrys origins. The history, as it is now mostly taught in American schools, is told from the point of view of the formerEuropean migrants. They would have set foot ashore at Plymouth Rock in 1620. A myth. This denies that the English came ashore in Jamestown in 1607 and the first black slaves arrived in 1619.

The Wampanoags hope that Thanksgiving will not only be celebrated, but also commemorated in the future. โ€œWe see that change is slowly coming. Two years ago, the municipality of Plymouth returned us a piece of land that also includes tombs of our ancestors, and more attention in teaching is being discussed for our history. Times are changing, its becoming more inclusive,โ€ says Ferreti. โ€œBut were not here yet.โ€