What does Thanksgiving today mean for the Native American tribe that fed the pilgrims

It’s been 400 years since the meal known as the first Thanksgiving took place in Patuxet, the area now known as Plymouth, Massachusetts. two Notable Persons In the Plymouth Colony he described as a three-day feast and celebration of the harvest, attended by the colonists, a group of Native Americans, the Wampanoag, and their leader, Massawat.

But it is possible that the Wampanoag family was not in a festive mood. They were reeling from an epidemic of a still mysterious disease that nearly wiped them out; The outbreak will continue to destabilize the tribe for the next 30 years.
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“I personally think this is just another reminder of all the terrible things that this nation has done not only to us, but to all indigenous peoples,” Mashpei Wampanoag, 29-year-old chief of the Mashpei Wampanoag tribe, Brian Wieden, 29, told Time magazine about his “First” Thanksgiving, Adding that he and his tribe are still largely forgotten. “For this nation to correct many of its mistakes, they have to admit their racism, which they don’t want to do.”

On May 16, Wieden became the youngest person elected to chair the board of Mashpee Wampanoag, which has approximately 2,600 registered citizens and is headquartered in Mashpee, Massachusetts. TIME spoke to Weeden about Native American Thanksgiving, the tribe’s biggest problems today — and why it’s still struggling to hold on to its land after 400 years.

How do you feel when you’re the head of the Mashpee Wampanoag on Thanksgiving?

The fact that we are still here is a blessing. And the fact that I have the honor to represent the tribe – which many people think is extinct – is a blessing in itself. It shows the resilience of our ancestors, and that we will continue to be here for generations to come.

Do you have any memories of getting to know the “American” Thanksgiving that still exists today?

In the third grade of elementary school in Hyannis, Massachusetts, [the teachers] He made us dress up and dance to “Colors of the Wind” Pocahontas. They will have one class in sacks of potato burlap and colorful feathers, and then the other class dressed as pilgrims. I came home and told my parents what was going on, and my parents went to school and demanded that they get out. Then they stopped doing it.

What is the biggest problem the Mashpee Wampanoag is currently facing?

The biggest problems facing the Mashbei tribe at the moment are with our land, the health and general welfare of our tribal citizens, climate change and environmental impacts. We lived just fine on Earth. We were so smart people that we knew how to navigate this world. If people listened to us, I don’t think we’d be in the situation we’re in with global warming and everything else. But I think the biggest [singular] The struggle now for our tribe is our struggle with the federal government, which has been a battle for more than 400 years.

Read more: 400 years after ‘first Thanksgiving’, the tribe that fed the pilgrims continues to fight for their land amid yet another pandemic.

This is in relation to the Trump administration describing 321 acres of your land as It does not fit the definition of Indian, a ruling that a federal judge later described as “against the law.”

Yes really. The next step is for the Home Office to hear the judge’s order, go back to the drawing table and give us another decision. Which is kind of where we are. We haven’t seen any progress [Biden] Administration. It’s really frustrating.

We want a resolution so we can start moving forward and take care of our employees. We have a homelessness problem – living here on Cape Cod is expensive. It is a struggle to live in the homeland of your ancestors. People cannot make ends meet and that is why they have to leave our lands. As long as our land is in limbo, the tribe cannot go out and build a homeless shelter or anything else like that.

David Goldman – APA statue of the Masasso Native American leader overlooks the traditional point of arrival for pilgrims on the Mayflower in 1620, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, August 12, 2020.

Everyone wants to talk about Native American Heritage Month and Thanksgiving. And here, the tribe that started it all is still waiting for the little justice owed to us. The Native Americans who welcomed everyone lost all of their lands. Today, we only own half of 1% of our ancestral land. I think just folders. Four hundred years later, I tell everyone that we don’t have much to thank.

“I stand with Mashbe,” President Biden said while campaigning for president in 2020. Do you feel that’s right?

I think a lot of politicians say what they want to say until they are elected. When they get there, the story is completely different. I was [part of the] The White House summit of tribal nations, and there wasn’t much opportunity for the leadership to address the administration. To make matters worse, it will be in the Wampanoag area of [Thanksgiving]The supposed holiday that we don’t celebrate.

(When asked for comment by TIME, the White House declined to provide an official response.)

Read more: How America keeps adapting the story of the Pilgrims in Plymouth to fit the story we need to tell

What do you do on Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is a day of mourning [for myself and tribal members]. My grandfather Everett “Tall Oak” Weeden is one of those who helped start this tradition. Many tribesmen will go out to Massasoit تمثال statue Overlooking Plymouth Rock. We’ll have a party there, talk, walk to church, and talk some more, and then everyone will go home and eat meals with their families.

Many of our tribesmen still eat venison and cranberries – which are actually indigenous to this area. The word squash comes from the word wampanoag, Askotasquash. So I guess a lot of people don’t realize it [when they sit down for their Thanksgiving meal that] They share the foods found in this area.

Native Americans celebrate multiple Thanksgiving holidays throughout the year. Do you have a favorite festival this year?

I would say that celebrating green corn and harvest time are among my favorite times. Mashantucket owns Pequot – the tribal nation to which the Jedi family belongs Schmitson In August, it is a green corn and dance feast.

The way our people have traditionally operated has been based on a calendar cycle based on moons, and each moon represents a certain thing. have strawberry moon, for example, Where we go and harvest our strawberries, and you’ll get strawberries on Thanksgiving. It wasn’t like we were thankful for this one day of the year. And I think it’s also important for people to understand: Every day you wake up, you’re grateful that you woke up.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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