Before this year’s national celebration of Thanksgiving, the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, just 43 miles southwest from Cambridge, where I reside, will celebrate its 400th Thanksgiving anniversary this coming weekend. The nationally televised extravaganza will venerate the arrival of European Pilgrims to America in 1620. Packaged in the promotion will be the story of these early Pilgrims’ heroic voyage on the Mayflower, and the beginning of American democracy that Quincy native President John Quincy Adams depicted as “the earliest example of civil government established by the act of the people to be governed.” Also, the one-year celebration after their arrival in 1620 symbolized a Thanksgiving depicting a cooperative and cordial relationship between the Pilgrims and Native Americans.

This Thanksgiving’s 400th anniversary arrives amid a continued COVID pandemic that has ravaged marginalized communities of color, as a county reckons with its past by re-examining its roots of persistent inequities. For example, this year, Massachusetts celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day in lieu of Columbus Day. In 2020, the NFL team formerly called the “Washington Redskins” is now the Washington Football Team. And in this supposedly more “woke” moment, television images of whites doing “war whoops” and “tomahawk chops” coming across our screen are now frowned upon.

Historically, for Native Americans, Thanksgiving is not a cause of celebration but rather a National Day of Mourning. Why would Native Americans celebrate the people who tried to destroy us?

Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Coles Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on this U.S. holiday. And for the Wampanoag nation of New England, whose name means “people of the dawn,” this national holiday is a reminder of the real significance of the first Thanksgiving in 1621 as a symbol of persecution of Native Americans and their long history of bloodshed with European settlers.

Oddly, the first group of settlers was refugees, to whom America now closes her doors. The Pilgrims were seeking a better life. However, the Pilgrims, who sought refuge here in America from religious persecution in their homeland, were correct in their dogged pursuit of religious liberty. Regrettably, the Pilgrims’ fervor for religious liberty was devoid of an ethic of accountability, and their actions did not set up the conditions requisite for moral liability and legal justice. Instead, the actions of the Pilgrims brought about the genocide of a people, a historical amnesia of the event, and an annual national celebration of Thanksgiving for their arrival. In other words, their actual practice of religious liberty came at the expense of the humanity and the civil rights of Native Americans.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush designated November as “National American Indian Heritage Month” to celebrate the history, art, and traditions of Native American people. And in this nation’s reckoning moment, celebrating the arrival of Pilgrims hints to its continued revisionist history. And it must cease!

As we get into the holiday spirit, let us remember the whole story of the arrival of the Pilgrims.

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,” reads the text of the plaque on Coles Hill that overlooks Plymouth Rock, the mythic symbol of where the Pilgrims first landed.

The United American Indians of New England (UAINE), a Native-led organization of Native people, supports Indigenous struggles in New England and throughout the Americas. Also, UAINE supports the struggles of communities of color, LGBTQ communities, and, yes, all refugees, because it understands the interconnections of struggles.

Most pilgrims would have died during the harsh winter had it not been for the open arms of the Native Americans,” Taylor Bell wrote in “The Hypocrisy Of Refusing Refugees at Thanksgiving.”

And for the record, the misrepresentations about what was served at the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth in 1621 needs to be corrected, too. For example, there is no evidence that turkey was offered, and pie could not have been, because there was no flour or butter available for the crust in those days. Also, The Mayflower arrived in Plymouth Harbor in 1620, after first stopping near today’s Provincetown, now known as an LGBTQ vacation spot.

In the spirit of our connected struggles for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, this Thanksgiving, we should not solely focus on the story of Plymouth Rock. Instead, as Americans, we should focus on creating this nation as a solid rock that rests on a multicultural and democratic foundation.

And in so doing, it helps us remember and respect the struggles that not only this nation’s Pilgrim foremothers and forefathers endured. It also enables us to recognize and respect the present-day struggle refugees and other marginalized groups face, especially the ongoing struggle our Native American brothers and sisters face every day, particularly on Thanksgiving Day.

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member and Columnist, The Reverend Monroe is an ordained minister, motivational speaker and she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Rev. Monroe does a weekly Monday segment, “All Revved Up!” on WGBH (89.7 FM), on Boston Public Radio and a weekly Friday segment “The Take” on New England Channel NEWS (NECN). She’s a Huffington Post blogger and a syndicated religion columnist. Her columns appear in cities across the country and in the U.K, and Canada. Also she writes a column in the Boston home LGBTQ newspaper Baywindows and Cambridge Chronicle. A native of Brooklyn, NY, Rev. Monroe graduated from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church in New Jersey before coming to Harvard Divinity School to do her doctorate. She has received the Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching several times while being the head teaching fellow of the Rev. Peter Gomes, the Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard who is the author of the best seller, THE GOOD BOOK. She appears in the film For the Bible Tells Me So and was profiled in the Gay Pride episode of In the Life, an Emmy-nominated segment. Monroe’s coming out story is profiled in “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America" and in "Youth in Crisis." In 1997 Boston Magazine cited her as one of Boston's 50 Most Intriguing Women, and was profiled twice in the Boston Globe, In the Living Arts and The Spiritual Life sections for her LGBT activism. Her papers are at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College's research library on the history of women in America. Her website is irenemonroe.com. Contact the Rev. Monroe and BC.

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