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Indigenous people, allies mourn in Plymouth on Thanksgiving Day

The demonstrators met as part of the National Day of Mourning, a nationwide movement that seeks to “shatter the untrue image of the Pilgrims.”

Hundreds marched the streets of historic Plymouth on Thursday to observe National Day of Mourning, founded in Plymouth in 1970.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

While families across the country were prepping for their Thanksgiving dinners, hundreds of indigenous people and allies met in Plymouth for a more somber gathering — one to challenge the traditional cultural understanding of the holiday.

The demonstrators met as part of the National Day of Mourning, a nationwide movement that seeks to “shatter the untrue image of the Pilgrims and the unjust system” that they perpetuated, according to the website of the United American Indians of New England.

Juan Gonzalez burned copal, a ceremonial incense, during the march through historic Plymouth. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

“Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands and the erasure of Native cultures,” the organization said. “Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Indigenous ancestors and Native resilience.”

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UAINE has organized protests at Plymouth’s Cole Hill since 1970, as a protest against “the racism and oppression that Indigenous people continue to experience worldwide.” This year’s event took place at 12 p.m. on Thursday, on the shores where the first English settlers landed in 1620.

“We did not simply fade into the background, as the Thanksgiving myth says,” said Kimimilasha “Kisha” James, a member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag and co-leader of UAINE, in video posted to the group’s Facebook. “We have thrived and flourished. We have persevered.”

Erika Perez, left, attends The National Day of Mourning with her daughter Gabriela Rios, 6, in Plymouth on Thursday.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Demonstrators traveled from as far as New York City for the event, according to posts on the group’s social media.

“The very fact that you [all] are here is proof that we did not vanish,” James said to the assembled crowd. “Our very presence frees this land from the lies of the mythmakers and the history books. We will remember all of our ancestors in the struggle that came before us.”

Hundreds gathered in front of Plymouth Rock on Thursday to observe National Day of Mourning, The event began with a prayer service at the statue of Massasoit Ousamequin and was followed with a march through historic Plymouth.Erin Clark/Globe Staff
The North American Indian Center of Boston's President Jean-Luc Pierite held up feathers while speaking to hundreds of attendees.Erin Clark/Globe Staff
Billy Myers wore a traditional headdress while attending The National Day of Mourning in Plymouth.Erin Clark/Globe Staff
Fairy Hawk lifted up a conch shell and cheered while leading hundreds in a march.Erin Clark/Globe Staff



Camilo Fonseca can be reached at camilo.fonseca@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @fonseca_esq.