Not Past It - Sabotaging Thanksgiving

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On Thanksgiving morning in 1997, a familiar scene, played out in Plymouth, Massachusetts, men and women dressed head-to-toe and colonial era.

Costumes paraded through the streets.

They were giant white collars, breaches, and bonnets and their hands.


They held Bibles some muskets and in their hearts, They Carried the true.

True spirit and story of Thanksgiving tourists lined, the streets to watch it all play out, but then indigenous protesters intercepted.


The parade, they jumped out of the crowd and yelled at the costumed.


Chaos, ensued, and the police.

They were there waiting for them.

For all those onlookers lining the streets, hoping to see a reenactment of the Thanksgiving story.


They got one.

All right, they watched as indigenous protesters were pepper sprayed beaten and dragged away.

Turns out.

This was a Thanksgiving scene.

Just not in the way the tourists were expecting.

From gimlet media.


This is not past it a show about the stories.

We can’t quite leave behind every episode.

We take a moment from that very same week in history and tell you the story of how it shaped our world.

I’m Simone palamon that violent confrontation between Native American activists and the Plymouth Police was the culmination of a decades-long tradition of protests that began 51 years ago this week on.


Giving day 1970 indigenous, activists dubbed it.

The national day of mourning and made it their mission to tell the truth about Thanksgiving.

And the birthplace of that great American Myth today on the show.


We’re telling you, the story of how one group of indigenous activists has fought to keep American history.


How exactly do you go about telling a pilgrim to fuck off.

That’s after the break.


In the early 1970s, a man named wamsutta Frank James gathered a group of activists together in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

His mission to tell a different story, about the history of Thanksgiving, every year.


Every sympathizer will go back to their homes with a different thought about what Thanksgiving Day means to the Native American.

It is a day of Lord.

I’m stood out was part of the Wampanoag tribe.


The people that as The Story Goes, welcome to the pilgrims with open arms and Plymouth all the way back in 1620.

The Thanksgiving myth, essentially says that the pilgrims seeking religious freedom landed on Plymouth Rock.


They then made friends with the Wampanoag.

They were welcomed with open arms by the Wampanoag.

This is Keisha James.

She’s So, a member of the Wampanoag tribe and then they sat down to a meal together and the pilgrims lived happily ever after.

And the natives faded into the background, when Keisha was growing up her grandfather, one soda, the activists, who speech, we just heard told her a very different version of that.


Thanksgiving story Thanksgiving was not declared in 1620 as the myth would have you believe.

But actually in 1637 to celebrate the massacre of over 700 Pequot, men, women and children on the banks of the Mystic.

River and Connecticut back in the early 17th century.


The Story Goes that the pequod had been in conflict with Puritan settlers over fur, trading, and resources pensions had been escalating for a while and it all boiled, over one, early morning, a Puritan militia surrounded, a fort where the Pequot were staying and just as they were waking up, the Puritans attacked and the description of the pequod massacre includes.


Things like celebrating the fact that they burned the corpses afterwards and describing the smell and giving thanks to God for the victory over the Pequot.

The Puritans saw their Victory as a blessing from God and marks that day as a day of Thanksgiving historians disagree on how directly the celebration of the Pequot Massacre led to our current Thanksgiving celebrations.


But what is clear is that after the Puritans arrived in massive?

To chuse, ‘it’s, they attacked and killed the indigenous communities who were already living there over and over again in my family.

We talked a lot about sort of actions that have happened in the past think like that’s what’s driving my grandfather and saying this is an acceptable, this needs to end.


Keisha says that her grandfather turned to activism and protest because he felt the history.


He was born Frank James in 18:23 not too far from Plymouth.

He was the first generation of my family to leave our ancestral homelands, which is no Epi or Martha’s Vineyard.


The family ended up moving to Chatham, Massachusetts where they were one of the few non white families in town.

They experienced incredible amounts of racism from townsfolk.

They have a story of across being burned on their lawn, for example, like things like that, starting in the 1950s, a series of laws.


And policies forced Native Americans to leave their tribal lands and abandoned their cultures and Native languages.

These policies collectively were known as Indian termination, Frank assimilated in the ways.


He could, he dove into music becoming a trumpet Prodigy.

And even graduating from the competitive and prestigious New England Conservatory.

But these accomplishments only got him so far.


He was told by his trumpet teacher that he would never be hired by a symphony orchestra, because of the color of his skin.

It was a turning point for Frank and he started to question everything he had been doing.

He had learned an instrument that belongs to Western classical music.


He went to Conservatory to study Western classical music, sort of everything that European society places an emphasis on and Still was treated like a second-class citizen.

I think somewhere between 1948 and 1957.


He decided to just be Wampanoag and no longer play that game around this time.

He changed his name to Warm Soda and started getting involved in local activism for indigenous rights through an organization called the Federated eastern Indian League, then came the 60s, the era of the civil rights movement and later that decade women’s, Liberation and black power and to promote native.


Asian around the country and digitus activists started what they called.

The Red Power movement, Red Power activists often took a confrontational approach and their Civil.

Disobedience was covered widely in the national press and those incidents were likely on one stood.


His mind when he was approached by the governor of Massachusetts ahead of that fateful Thanksgiving in 1970.

It’s the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower and Governor Sergeant.

Who’s governor of Massachusetts gets together with a bunch of other white men.


And they decide, they want to throw a banquet to commemorate this event because it’s the founding of America and many of them are Mayflower, descendants themselves as part of the arrangements for this banquet, the planning committee reached out to wamsutta.

They asked my grandfather wants that a Frank James to give a speech at the banquet and he’s going to be the token Wampanoag.


And They I’m sure have these fantasies of him.

Praising the pilgrims praising the Mayflower Landing thanking them for bringing civilization to these Shores.

Because, you know, nothing says party.

Like Puritans fleeing Europe and occupying other people’s land.


My grandfather goes away and he writes a very different sort of speech.

You sat down to write this speech and he was asked to submitted in advance to the state and the state.

State flipped out that’s motto in Monroe, co-leader of United American, Indians of New England.


She worked with lime soda over the years to organize protests and other activists Endeavors.

The state said, oh, this is way too inflammatory.

You can’t say, words like this on such a Grand Occasion.

That’s not.

All right, Mom, sit out wasn’t allowed to read his speech but it’s still out there.


You can find it online so I can tell you exactly.

What he wanted to say.

He wanted to say that his people were taken as slaves by those first European settlers that they were wiped out by diseases that the settlers brought with them.


He wrote quote.

We forfeited our country.

Our lands have fallen into the hands of the aggressor.

We have allowed the white man to keep us on our knees.

Yeah, so like not exactly Pilgrim talking points.


But for some reason, state officials still thought.

Once stood, a could be convinced to play the role they had cast for him.

They asked him if he would read something that they wrote for him, which was very vanilla, very tame down and he refused to do that.


He felt that he was a man who had tried to do his best for his people and he was not somebody who would stoop to doing that at all.


Mom said, And other local indigenous activists hatched a plan to meet in Plymouth on Thanksgiving and send their own message.


They created a three-page flyer and mailed it around to different groups and tribes across the country word, spread through something called the moccasin.

Telegraph and the moccasin telegraph was the idea that through word-of-mouth and Indigenous, people just running across each other and spreading the word from play.


A stew place that word would spread about something like this and that is in fact, what happened?

Finally, the day arrived, the 350th anniversary.

It was cold that Thanksgiving morning, the protesters gathered on Coles Hill.


Overlooking, Plymouth Rock.

The Mayflower replica, Bob quietly in the harbor below, a contingent of some 50, Indians many in for native dress gathered at the Statue of Massasoit leader of the tribe, which inhabited the Plymouth area at the time of the pilgrims arrival.


They were joined by a number of student support.

Some of them were Native headdresses and feathers in their hair, others were bell-bottoms and moccasins.

Wamsutta Frank.

James stood, at the center of this group.

The leader of the group continued protesting of the treatment received by American Indians.


He charged the government with breaking 389 treaties in the past, three hundred, fifty years later called upon the white man to take back his disease and poverty.

After the speeches, the group continued down.

He’ll marching to the place where the pilgrims supposedly first landed.


The Indians related to Plymouth Rock protected, in a concrete trip, more than a dozen of the group jumped onto the Rock and covered it with sand.

They chanted, there’s a curse on the Rock and the rock is red.

Reportedly the protesters, splashed red paint all over Plymouth Rock and then they set their sights on another Pilgrim favorite.


The next Target was the Mayflower to our replica of the original sailing vessel of the pilgrims.

Then he climbed over fences and railings in a symbolic protest, the Indians and their sympathizers ripped down the cross of st.

George took down flags from the ship’s, mast and scale, most of the vessels riggings.


They tossed over.

Order, a mannequin of Christopher Jones, Master of the original Mayflower.

Hamsa, and the other activists declared that day as the first national day of mourning and they made a plan to return every Thanksgiving to disrupt the pageantry and the celebration of a false history.


They would go back year after year, after year to challenge the pilgrim narrative, that became tradition.

But as we know pilgrims don’t stay peaceful for long, that’s after.



Before the break, we learned about Wampanoag tribal leader, wamsutta, Frank James, and his protest against the false history of the Thanksgiving story, but wamsutta wasn’t just upsetting a historical myth.


The annual protest.

He started the national day of mourning was upsetting local officials in Plymouth because they were very invested in keeping the whitewashed version of the Thanksgiving story alive.

In the 1870s and 80s the town of Plymouth did a pretty fantastic job of remaking itself into a national heritage site.


This is, Lisa bleah.

An associate professor of history at Wake Forest University, where she studies Native American history, and she says that after Congress made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1870, Plymouth became more and more reliant on its tourism industry really playing itself up.


The site of the very first Thanksgiving, they took down all of their there, an old industrial buildings and put up monuments.

The Monuments to the forefathers.

Was this enormous Monument erected in the 1880s and it drew a whole bunch of visitors.


They started having his annual pageants celebrating, the pilgrims, and their landing and 1620 and those pageants Drew in.

More people and these annual celebrations of Puritan Heritage gets coupled with the Thanksgiving idea of Unity by 1970.


The celebration of the pilgrims and Thanksgiving had become a huge draw in Plymouth earlier.

That year an estimated 100,000 people had come to the town to observe the anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower.

And every year they held a big Thanksgiving Day Parade that Pilgrim progress.


We mentioned earlier with the breeches and the Bonnets and the Bible’s in the parade.

Each of the Marchers was meant to represent, one of the 51 survivors of that first harsh, winter in 1620.

A commemoration of the suffering of the pilgrims and nothing about the Wampanoag who had suffered too.


The indigenous activists had to bring their history to the table themselves first, keeping their attention on The Monuments, but as the years passed, they started challenging the parade and more confrontational ways.

And sometimes we would go and disrupt them.


We didn’t get into physical violence with them.

We would just jump in front of them, where we would call them out for re-enacting, a lie.

This is my to e Monroe.

Again, who worked alongside Warm Soda over Years, she got more active in the day of mourning.


Protests maturely says, the goal was to raise awareness and, you know, and talk about what had really happened in Plymouth and that people were sold as slaves out of the harbor and things like that, local officials and Plymouth hated.


This kind of in-your-face, disruption police presence ramped up through the years protesters would often be followed by armed guards and police dogs the /.


And the protests remained largely peaceful though, and the protesters would not be dissuaded.


We never had a permit or anything.

And frankly, it’s indigenous lands.

And so we March through the streets of Plymouth and we would often end up down by climate for rock, but it all came to a head on Thanksgiving Day in 1997, my toey and 150 or so other protesters gathered that Morning on Coles Hill and then they began marching through Plymouth.


So we started to March up a very narrow Street there and the next thing you know that the cops started like just coming out us, not only the local Plymouth cops, but also the Plymouth County police and the state police decided that they were going to Ambush us when we tried to March.


And so there were hundreds of cops are They were in discriminately just pepper-spraying anybody they could find and they also did things like drag indigenous people through the streets by their hair and otherwise violently attacked Marchers during that day.


Near Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts.

A Thanksgiving Day protest by Native Americans turned nasty, the police use mace and arrested 20 people.

The police would actually arrest 25 of the protesters including matoi.


They were slammed with charges, like, disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly.

The Press started calling them, the Plymouth 25.

An image has ended up in the news of protesters being assaulted by the police, getting dragged around.


In handcuffs getting pepper spray to the face and those pictures had a dramatic impact.

Act almost a year after the altercation, the group reached a settlement with the town of Plymouth the charges against the Plymouth 25 were dropped and Plymouth agreed to allow protesters to gather every year without obtaining, a permit first.


And perhaps most significantly Plymouth agreed to better address the history of the Wampanoag and its historical markers.

One of the things that we got from the settlement were plaques that are in town.

One of them is up on calls.


And it has information that we wrote about National Day of mourning and its significance.


If you go to Coles hill now the hill that overlooks Plymouth Harbor where Warm Soda and others first gathered in 1970, you’ll find a wide bronze plaque set on a stone.

The tells the story of the national day of mourning Plymouth was a town that was just filled with propaganda about the pilgrims.


And we wanted there to be something there.

That would tell some historical truth and and Helmet from an indigenous perspective, as well.

The plaques are there to serve as a correction to the Thanksgiving myth.

That Plymouth had been parading.


Literally for its thousands of visitors.

Anybody who is a tourist who goes there will be able to see those plaques and Nate, you know, maybe start rethinking why they’re in Plymouth and what Plymouth is selling to them when they go there as tourists, so that was, that was to correct some of the history.



Lisa bleah says, the national day of mourning plaques are especially powerful given their Prime positioning.

One of them is right next to a statue of Massasoit, a Wampanoag leader, from the time of the pilgrims.

It’s incredible.


I would say what they’ve accomplished the plaque next to the Statue of Massasoit by creating a counter-narrative next to the Statue, when visitors, see it.

And then they go home with a more complicated understanding.

An understanding that what your country cells to you, and its traditions and it’s stories.


It’s not usually the full picture but also a couple of plaques isn’t enough.

It can’t possibly represent the whole truth because the truth is Native Americans continue to be erased indigenous voices, continue to be silenced.


There aren’t many spaces like the national day of mourning specifically dedicated to Amplifying, the needs the demands, the voices of indigenous people where the rest of us are asked to, just listen.

Once that his granddaughter, Keisha James wants that to change.


My genuine.

Hope is that indigenous people are hurt everyday and the Thanksgiving with has fallen and there is not a need for a chalet morning and that someday it will not be necessary because it should not have been necessary in the first place.

It’s no secret that America struggles to reckon.


Honestly, with its history.

The violence, the dispossession, the indoctrination, and the destruction that stains, it’s past.

It doesn’t fit into the land of the free home of the brave narrative, the Thanksgiving myth.

However, I think it’s the perfect example of how America likes to see itself and peaceful community joining hands with others that aren’t like us.


But, you know, that’s not the story.

Of America.

I know it isn’t Keisha and Montoya and the thousands of other indigenous people who have protested on the national day of mourning.

They don’t just know it.

They express it.

They fight to tell the story of America as it actually is.


It’s not easy to go up against this great American Myth, but it’s a matter of preservation.

They fight against a false history design.

Signed to erase them to say.

We are here.


We are undeniably here.


Now, passed it as a Spotify original produced by gimlet and CSP media.

This episode was produced by Ramon A Philip next week.

We get into the holiday spirit.

What happens is once you start finding things that people talk about you go.


Oh my God, that’s a holiday.

The rest of our team.

Our producers, Amy, Padula and Sarah Craig.

Our associate producer is Julie, Carly Lauren Newcomb is our production assistant.

The supervising producer is Erica Morrison editing by Mauro Waltz, Andrea be Scott and Zach Stewart Ponte.


Fact, checking by Jane.

Ackerman sound design and mixing by Hans Dale.

She original music by Sachs kicks.


Lily Greene.

J bless and Bobby.


Our theme song is Toko Liana by Coco, Co with music supervision by Liz Fulton, technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by Elysee Harvin and Talia Rahman, the executive producer at CSP media is Zach Stewart Ponte, the executive producer from gimlet is Abbie ruzicka special.


Natalia Landry, Professor Jeanne O’Brien Steve Peters and thanks to the United American Indians of New England.

If you want to learn more, you can go to you AI, n e dot org.

Where they’ll be live-streaming.

This year’s National Day of mourning and special.


Thanks to Lydia Pole.

Green, Dan Behar and Clara.

Sankey Emily wiedemann list Styles and Nabil.

Cholan pot.

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No, thanks for hanging.

We’ll see you next week.


Plymouth Rock is literally just a moderately sized Boulder with 1620 stamped on it’s more of a pebble, really.