Native Americans Mark Thanksgiving With Mourning, Remembrance

PLYMOUTH (WBZ-AM/AP) -- Members of Native American tribes from around New England are marking Thursday's holiday by remembering the struggles they and their ancestors have gone through over the centuries since the very first Thanksgiving.

Cedric Cromwell is Tribal Council Chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts, and a descendant of the Native American depicted on the state's seal. It was his ancestors who greeted the Mayflower.

"When I think about Thanksgiving today, I think about those first days that my ancestors went through," he said. "And I think about the struggle which my tribe has experienced through these years to try to get our sovereign land we've invested hundreds of millions of dollars into."

The Wampanoag tribe is calling on President Trump to recognize their sovereign territory here in Massachusetts. 

Trump mentioned the Wampanoag tribe by name in his Thanksgiving message Thursday.

In Plymouth Thursday, many tribe members are gathering in the town where the Pilgrims settled for a solemn National Day of Mourning observance.

Thursday's noon gathering recalled the disease, racism and oppression that European settlers brought.

It's the 48th year that the United American Indians of New England have organized the event on Thanksgiving Day.

Moonanum James, a co-leader of the group, says native people have no reason to celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620.

"Today we say `no thanks, no giving," James said.

Along with prayers and public speeches, participants will condemn environmental degradation and government restrictions on immigration. 

They also plan a "stomp dance" to symbolically stomp out opioid addiction, which has ravaged many native communities.

Cromwell says the holiday is a day to remember and honor and remind the nation of history.

"People are so ignorant--'There are no Indians around'--and they're going to tell you who you are, like Hollywood did, depict us of who we are and what we should say and how we are," he said. 

His tribe has long sought to build a casino in Taunton, and has worked to reclaim its native language.

"We've got a voice," Cromwell said. "And let me say, history is written by the victor. We're victorious today because we're writing our story now. We just want to be heard."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Karyn Regal reports

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