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Four hundred years ago, a small group of English Puritans arrived in Massachusetts.
For the first time recorded in the history of the United States, Native Americans have been given a voice in the years-long Mayflower commemoration, which started on Thursday with a series of events that will continue until D-day: 16 September 2020.
“We are grateful to have been invited to contribute our historical and cultural knowledge to this commemoration unencumbered by centuries of marginalization and uncensored by contemporary event planners,” Paula Peters, representative of the Advisory Wampanoang Committee, told Efe.
The Wampanoag Natives are the tribe who received the approximately 100 passengers who traveled on the Mayflower ship from Plymouth to the New World.
The Wampanoag committee advisor recalled that while present-day U.S. citizens celebrate Thanksgiving for the Native people of North America it is a day of national mourning. For these communities, the arrival of English tribes paved the way to destruction.
The National Day of Mourning first began in 1970, when a member of the Wampanoag tribe, Wamsutta Frank James, gave a speech at a state dinner to mark the Mayflower’s 350th anniversary. Frank James refused to sing the praises of colonizers.
When the so-called Pilgrims arrived on the east coast of America in 1620, they had no food and scarce knowledge of hunting, planting and fishing techniques.
It was indigenous communities that taught the British how to survive.
But the civil coexistence and sharing of knowledge ended when the settlers started to kill and enslave the indigenous community that had safeguarded their survival.
By 1630, Natives became the minority within their own lands.
Adrian Viken, director of the Mayflower commemoration, acknowledged that the fact British colonizers are considered the founding fathers of the United States was not accurate.
To do justice to the truly historic significance and legacy of the journey the full story needs to be acknowledged – not just the pilgrims’ journey to the Americas on the Mayflower, Vikens said.
Before arriving in the New World, the religious pilgrims adopted a political system, appointed a governor and a legal code known as the Mayflower Compact – considered a precursor to the 1787 United States Constitution.
The bloody wars and the forced evangelizing to which colonizers submitted Natives cannot be ignored in the narrative of the Mayflower commemorations, Viken added.
“The story of how the colonizers quickly forgot their manners is the one that has been marginalized,” Peters lamented, who described as a “terrible irony” that the pilgrims, themselves the target of religious persecution, were not tolerant of the Natives’ spiritual beliefs.