The 45th commemoration of the National Day of Mourning on Nov. 27 in Plymouth, Mass., will again honor Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier, a heroic fighter for the rights of Indigenous and other oppressed peoples. Peltier has been unjustly imprisoned for 38 years.
The so-called “Thanksgiving” holiday on that date starkly recalls the centuries of atrocities committed against Native peoples, first by European colonizers and then by U.S. administrations. Indigenous lands stolen, cultures and languages under siege, bigotry, injustice and murderous violence aimed at this country’s original inhabitants are the real U.S. history, not the schoolbook myths.
At traditional National Day of Mourning ceremonies, Native speakers recount their true history, pay homage to their ancestors and tell of their efforts to survive under this oppressive capitalist system. They relate their struggles throughout the Americas.
They also celebrate their militant history, their continuing struggles for political, economic and social rights and for recognition of their sovereignty and right to self-determination. Their international unity and solidarity strongly shine through.
Racist discrimination, oppression and corporate exploitation continue. The economic crisis has exacerbated Native workers’ unemployment; high jobless rates continue. Accessible jobs often have few to no benefits and low wages. At least one-third of Native people are impoverished.
One-fourth of Native households receive food stamps. Yet one in four adults and one in three children still lack nutritious food; one in 10 households faces outright hunger. Governmental cuts in these essential benefits have devastated these communities.
The U.S. government, however, allots trillions of dollars to wage wars, occupy lands abroad, bail out Wall Street corporations and keep big banks from failing. If Congress were not a bought instrument of big capital, it would put human needs first and ensure jobs and all social programs for Indigenous and other oppressed and low-income communities.
Today, Native peoples worldwide boldly resist capitalists’ ruthless pillaging of the earth in search of oil, gas, minerals — and super-profits. They oppose “climate injustice” — whereby poor countries and peoples are harmed by climate-made disasters caused by carbon emissions, fracking, hazardous pipelines and environmental racism. Indigenous activists demand reparations from corporate polluters for climate and ecological damage.
Native communities in the U.S. have been in the forefront of protests against corporate “fracking” and the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport tar sands oil from Canada through the U.S. Northern Plains to refineries in Texas, escalating injurious carbon emissions and risking ground water contamination. Protesters have put themselves on the line in this life-and-death struggle against environmental genocide.
In Montana and South Dakota, Native nations have opposed exploitation of the land and assert that no one has consulted them about the pipeline, even though it cuts through tribal lands. Farmers, ranchers and environmentalists have joined their protests. The Rosebud Sioux Nation says that congressional authorization of the pipeline would be “an act of war” against their people and vows to close tribal borders to the project.
A recent “no” vote in the Senate reflected the influence of the long, hard-fought struggle to block the pipeline. This congressional body will soon seat more right-wing, pro-pipeline politicians who are expected to reverse the vote. This makes it even more urgent for all progressive forces to actively resist the pipeline.
In another important movement, Native nations and individuals have protested the racist names of sports teams and mascots for decades. Now, the strength of their righteous struggle has expanded public consciousness. The tide has turned against team owners, as more people deplore this bigotry and demand the abolition of these racist names. More than 22,000 academic institutions have renamed their teams and mascots.
This rising consciousness was borne out by a massive Nov. 2 demonstration at Minneapolis’s TCF Stadium. Some 5,000 people joined 11 Native nations in calling for Washington football team owner Dan Snyder to “Change the name!” They denounced Snyder — who has refused to meet with Native leaders or rename the team — for promoting “hate speech for profit.” Activists pledge to march at every Washington team’s football game — and aim to reduce Snyder’s megaprofits.
Millions of people around the world call for freedom for Leonard Peltier! This ailing, 70-year-old hero is imprisoned far from his nation, the Turtle Mountain Band in North Dakota. Send solidarity messages to Leonard Peltier, #89637132, USP Coleman I, U.S. Penitentiary, P.O. Box 1033, Coleman, Fla., 33521.
Workers World Party raises high the banner of solidarity with all Indigenous peoples on this National Day of Mourning and loudly proclaims, “Free Leonard Peltier!” WWP also stands in solidarity with Indigenous peoples worldwide who are fighting back against the capitalists’ escalating destruction of the planet.