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Native Americans mark Thanksgiving with day of mourning

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Native Americans gather in Plymouth, Massachusetts, for the National Day of Mourning observance. (AP photo)

Thanksgiving is nothing to celebrate for Native Americans who are gathering in the US town where the first European immigrants settled for a solemn National Day of Mourning observance.

It’s the 49th year that the United American Indians of New England (UAINE) have organized the event on Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday in the United States, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

The gathering on Thursday in downtown Plymouth, Massachusetts, will recall the disease, racism and oppression that the European settlers brought, the group's leaders told the Associated Press.

Moonanum James, a co-leader of the group, told the AP: “Native people have no reason to celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims.”

The Pilgrims were one of the earliest European settlers in America, arriving from England and settling in the state of Massachusetts in 1620. The "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621.

Participants the Native American mourning observance will beat drums, offer prayers and make public speeches.

They’ll also express their solidarity with refugees from Latin America who are being denied entry to the US, and condemn pipeline projects and fracking that they say needlessly and recklessly degrade the environment.

Native Americans were greatly affected by the European colonization of the Americas, which began in 1492, and their population declined precipitously due to introduced diseases, warfare, and slavery.

After the founding of the United States, many Native American peoples were subjected to warfare, removals and one-sided treaties, and they continued to suffer from discriminatory government policies into the 21st century.

“It has long been recognized that Native Americans are dying of diabetes, alcoholism, tuberculosis, suicide, and other health conditions at shocking rates. Beyond disturbingly high mortality rates, Native Americans also suffer a significantly lower health status and disproportionate rates of disease compared with all other Americans,” the US Commission on Civil Rights said in a report in 2004.

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