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Nov. 22, 2021

The Wampanoag & the Thanksgiving Myth

In Autumn of 1621, a group of Pilgrims from the Mayflower voyage and Wampanoag men, led by their sachem Massasoit, ate a feast together. The existence of that meal, which held little importance to either the Pilgrims or the Wampanoag, is the basis of the Thanksgiving myth. The myth, re-told in school Thanksgiving pageants and TV shows, is not accurate and is harmful to Native people, especially to the Wampanoag. 

In 1970, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts planned a banquet to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. They asked an Aquinnah Wampanoag man, Frank James, also known as Wamsutta, to speak at the banquet. However, when they learned what he was planning to say, the true history, they forbade his speech. Frank James would not give a speech that they rewrote, and instead he planned the first National Day of Mourning on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth. Fifty one years later the United American Indians of New England still meet at noon on Cole’s Hill on the US Thanksgiving Holiday to remember the genocide of Native people and the theft of Native lands and erasure of Native culture.

Joining me to help us learn more about the Wampanoag and the dangers of the Thanksgiving myth is Kisha James, enrolled Aquinnah Wampanoag, one of the organizers of the National Day of Mourning, and granddaughter of Frank James.

Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. The episode image is “Massasoit and His Warriors,” 1857. Photograph in the LIbrary of Congress.


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Kelly Therese Pollock  0:00  
This is Unsung History, the podcast where we discuss people and events in American history that haven't always received a lot of attention. I'm your host, Kelly Therese Pollock. I'll start each episode with a brief introduction to the topic, and then talk to someone who knows a lot more than I do. Be sure to subscribe to Unsung History on your favorite podcasting app, so you never miss an episode. And please tell your friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, maybe even strangers to listen too. On today's episode, we're talking about the Wampanoag Nation, and the true history of Thanksgiving. The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah, have lived for over 12,000 years on the island of Noepe, now known as Martha's Vineyard. The Wampanoag Nation once included all of what is now southeastern Massachusetts, and eastern Rhode Island, with over 67 distinct tribal communities. European merchant vessels and fishing boats started to travel along the coast of what is now New England in the 16th century, and the Wampa nog interacted with and traded with the Europeans. In 1614, Captain Thomas Hunt, invited several Wampanoag onto his ship, and once aboard, he captured them, and sold them in Spain as slaves. One of the Wampanoag from the Patuxet band, named Tisquantum or Squanto, was saved from his fate when a group of friars blocked his sale, possibly citing a Spanish law that said Native Americans could not be enslaved. Tisquantum made the long journey back home, sailing on an expedition to Newfoundland as an interpreter. Unfortunately, when Tisquantum finally made it back to Wampanoag land, he found that tragedy had struck. Between 1616 and 1619, the Wampanoag suffered from a terrible epidemic introduced by the Europeans. It had long been thought that the epidemic was smallpox, but more recent scholarship has suggested other possibilities, including leptospirosis, or seven day fever. Whatever the disease was, it devastated the Wampanoag people. They were struck ill in large numbers at the same time, leaving no one healthy enough to care for the sick. It's estimated that up to 90% of the Wampanoag died of the epidemic. In November of 1620, after 66 days at sea, the Mayflower landed at what is now Cape Cod on Wampanoag land. The Mayflower, carrying 101 people, was supposed to arrive at what is now the Hudson River in New York, and was then part of the Virginia colony. After a rough start, which caused them to leave Europe long after they intended and rough winds as they approached America, the Mayflower was far off course, and not on the land they were contracted to hold, although that land too belong to Native people. When the Pilgrims landed, they had little food, no knowledge of the land, and faced a fast approaching winter. They ransacked the empty village of Patuxet that they found deserted from epidemic and they dug up graves and stole seeds. The Wampanoag kept their distance that first winter aware of the dangers posed by Europeans. In March of 1621, the Wampanoag finally approached the Pilgrims. Samoset, a  Monhegan from Maine, visited the Pilgrim village, and when he returned, he was accompanied by Tisquantum who helped the English, showing them how to plant corn, fish, and gather berries and nuts. In April of 1621, the Wampanoag leader Massasoit also known as Ousemequin, entered into a treaty with John Carver, the first governor of the Plymouth colony. In the treaty, the two peoples agreed to do no harm to each other and to come to each other's aid if attacked.

Although Massasoit did not leave a written record outlining his motivations, it's possible that he hoped to use the English weapons to defend against the more numerous Narragansett nation who had not been so affected by the epidemic. In autumn of 1621, the Plymouth colonists did hold a harvest feast. It was not a Thanksgiving, which would have been a religious holiday for them, and they did not invite the Wampanoag to the feast. As part of the feast, the colonists shot guns off to celebrate. Massasoit, alerted to possible danger to his allies showed up to the Pilgrim village with 90 warriors. The Wampanoag were then invited to join the feast. As there was not enough food for everyone, Massasoit sent out some of his men to hunt and bring back five deer. The three day feast does not appear to have held any special meaning to the Wampanoag or to the Pilgrims. In addition to venison, they likely ate seafood, such as lobster, crabs, fish and eel, possibly turkey or duck, maize, bread and squash. The Pilgrims likely had very little sugar left from their journey over so there wouldn't have been pumpkin pie or cranberry bread. White potatoes didn't grow in the area, so there would have been no mashed potatoes. The peace lasted for the rest of Massasoit's life, but not much longer. What had started as a small colony of English, outnumbered by the Wampanoag, quickly grew as more and more ships arrived. The newly arriving colonists took more and more land, clearing large tracts of land and ignoring earlier agreements. Massasoit died in 1661 and was succeeded by his oldest son Wamsutta. In 1662, the English arrested Wamsutta also known as Alexander on suspicion of plotting war. He died during questioning under suspicious circumstances, and his brother Metacom, also known as Philip took over. Metacom was angry at the colonists' treatment of the Native people and their violation of the treaties. In 1675, he arranged an uprising, which became known as King Philip's War. When the colonists were victorious in the war, they killed or sold as slaves, many of the surviving Native Americans, even those who had surrendered on the promise of mercy. Thanksgiving didn't become a national holiday until 1863. Magazine editor and writer Sarah Hale had launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday, starting in 1827. At the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln finally agreed in a proclamation encouraging all Americans to ask God to, "commend to his tender care, all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife." In 1970, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts planned a banquet to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower. They asked Frank James, also known as Wamsutta an Aquinnah Wampanoag man, to speak at the banquet. However, when they learned what he was planning to say, the true history, they forbade his speech. Frank James would not give a speech that they rewrote, and instead, he planned the first National Day of Mourning on Cole's Hill in Plymouth. 51 years later, the United American Indians of New England still meet at noon on Cole's Hill on the US Thanksgiving holiday, to remember the genocide of Native people, and the theft of Native lands and erasure of Native culture. There are currently more than 2000 enrolled members of the Wampanoag. Only two bands of the Wampanoag have federal recognition, the Aquinnah, who were recognized in 1987, after a decade of activism, and the Mashpee, who were recognized in 2007.

Several other bands have been recognized by the state of Massachusetts and have applied for federal recognition. Joining me to help us learn more about the Wampanoag and the dangers of the Thanksgiving myth is Kisha James, enrolled Aquinnah Wampanoag, one of the organizers of the National Day of Mourning, and granddaughter of Frank James. So hi, Kisha, thank you so much for joining me today.

Kisha James  10:10  
Thank you for having me.

Kelly Therese Pollock  10:11  
I want to start with there's a lot of hand wringing recently about how young is too young to teach kids about race and racial history in the United States, but I'm going to guess that this is a story that, that you have always known that you have always been taught. Can you talk some about sort of growing up in your family and knowing the history of your tribe and your grandfather?

Kisha James  10:34  
Sure. So my grandfather, Wamsutta Frank James founded a protest in 1970, called National Day Mourning, which was the first Indigenous protest to push back against the Thanksgiving myth. And it has been happening every year continuously since 1970, so this year would be the 52nd National Day of Mourning. And I've been going to National Day of Mourning my entire life. So my entire life, I've known that the Thanksgiving, this is not true. And I've also known how damaging it is to Native youth, as well as it's quite interesting, I would say, to be in school, and to be taught something by your teachers and to know it's a lie, and sort of see everyone go along with the lie, including adults that you're told you're supposed to trust. And I think that's a very interesting experience a lot of Indigenous students have early on in life is realizing that you can't necessarily trust the United States educational system.

Kelly Therese Pollock  11:31  
What are the some of the other ways that that this myth is damaging, not just to kids and to schoolchildren, but to Native people and especially to the Wampanoag people.

Kisha James  11:44  
So, so the myth, the basis of the myth is, the Pilgrims seeking religious freedom landed on Plymouth Rock, the Indians welcomed them with open arms, they sat down to a harvest feast, and then the Indians conveniently faded into the background. The end. You know, that's sort of what we're taught in school. And there are several damaging things to come out of the myth. The first is the idea of peaceful coexistence: the idea that the Pilgrims and Wampanoag were best friends, and that the Wampanoag were treated fairly by the Pilgrims. Another thing to come out of it is the complete erasure of Indigenous genocide. And, as well as the history is up here, for example, the Pilgrims and their descendants put Native peoples into so called praying towns, which were essentially concentration camps where it was very much convert or die. And even if you convert, we're still gonna let you die. That was more or less the idea behind them. And of course, the Thanksgiving myth completely erases that because it makes it seem as though everything was wonderful. And it doesn't really account for where we went. And also doesn't really contain anything about us in the current day. It makes us sound as though we're frozen forever in that moment in time, which is a problem.

Kelly Therese Pollock  13:01  
What does the Wampanoag community look like now? You know, what, as you note, this isn't frozen in time, and you and your people still exist. So what what does that look like? What's the diversity of that group?

Kisha James  13:17  
So we're still around. I think it's hard for people in New England to believe, I tend to get asked a lot, "Didn't you all go extinct?" Really sensitive questions like that. But yes, we are still around. In Massachusetts, there are two federally recognized Wampanoag nations. Federally recognized just means that the United States recognizes us as sovereign nations and maintains a government to government relationship with us. So there's my tribe, the Aquinnah Wampanoag, and our homelands are Noepe or Martha's Vineyard; and then there's the Mashpee Wampanoag, whose homelands are Cape Cod, more or less. There's also state recognized and unrecognized Wampanoag tribes including the Herring Pond tribe, whose traditional territory is Plymouth, as well as the Chappaquiddick Wampanoag. So I'd say we're a very diverse people. We're still here, we may not necessarily look the way that Native peoples are often stereotyped to look, but you never know. You might have a Wampanoag neighbor if you live in Massachusetts. 

Kelly Therese Pollock  14:16  
Yeah. And can you talk to them about the the Wampanoag language and the efforts to revive it?

Kisha James  14:22  
Yes. So it was said that the Wampanoag language went extinct by the early 20th century. I don't think that's entirely true, because for example, my family still had speakers alive until about the 1950s. But the point is, at some point, the language did go extinct. There were no more speakers of the language and then in the 80s, a Mashpee Wampanoag tribal member named Jessie Little Doe Baird began a language of revival and today we have many fluent Wampanoag speakers as well as people like me who are trying to learn the language. So we're getting there. We're getting you know, we're getting our language back, but it's taking a little while.

Kelly Therese Pollock  15:01  
Yeah, yeah, definitely. I watched some YouTube videos. That sounds like a beautiful language. So let's talk some then about your grandfather and the beginning of this National Day of Mourning. Can you talk some about just sort of set the stage for what happened, why he started that?

Kisha James  15:22  
Sure. So the year is 1970. And 1970 is the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower. And so the state decides that they want to throw a banquet to commemorate this occasion. And sort of last minute, they realize they need a Native person. And my grandfather was probably the most well known Native person in the state. He was president of something called the Federated Eastern Indian League. He was just kind of around generally and well known. And so they reached out to him and asked him to give a speech. And I'm sure they thought he was going to do something along the lines of praise the pilgrims and thank them for bringing civilization to these shores. And what my grandfather submitted to them was very different. It was a speech that talked about how the Wampanoag have actually not prospered, following the arrival of the Pilgrims, and it explicitly calls them out for what they did and calls them murderers and talks about them robbing graves, the second they arrived in on this continent and things like that. And the state said, "This speech is too inflammatory. You can't go around calling people murderers, even if it's true." And so they said that they would write him a speech, and he could give that speech. And my grandfather refused to have words put into his mouth. And so he and other local Native peoples got together, put together a flier and circulated it all around Indian country, which was very hard to do back in 1970. But it essentially called for a National Day of Mourning on Plymouth, in Plymouth on Thanksgiving Day in 1970. And many Native peoples from all over the country, including members of the American Indian Movement showed up. But it was very much this speech and this speech being suppressed that was the catalyst for National Day of Mourning.

Kelly Therese Pollock  17:16  
Did he then give that speech at the National Day of Mourning? 

Kisha James  17:19  
So that speech has actually never been given. It's actually in several anthologies of the greatest, never delivered speeches. So it was never given. He gave a different speech. But the speech was printed in newspapers all across the country. So that's sort of how this speech got spread.

Kelly Therese Pollock  17:38  
And what does the National Day of Mourning look like today? 

Kisha James  17:41  
So National Day of Morning today is a gathering usually about 1500 Indigenous people and allies. We gather on Cole's Hill in Plymouth. Cole's Hill overlooks Plymouth Rock, which is significant because Plymouth Rock is very much the birthplace of the American settler colonial project in many ways, and the birthplace of the Thanksgiving myth, because of course, the Pilgrims never landed on Plymouth Rock. It's just a rock that the Tourism Board dragged down in the 20th century, and stamped 1620 on. But it overlooks Plymouth Rock. And we gather at noon. It begins with a prayer, followed by political speeches. I usually give the first speech, my dad used to, which is the general history speech. And then we hear from Indigenous people from all over. People come quite a distance, for example, from Mexico and Canada, to speak about their struggles. We then march the streets of Plymouth, and usually gather down by Plymouth Rock to talk about the mythology, and also scare tourists sometimes, because there's a lot of tourists who always aren't really like expecting us, even though we're there every year. And following that, we usually have a social, which is like a big, get together meal where we can all get to know each other. Since the pandemic has happened, we've been doing boxed lunches. And we also livestream the events so that people who cannot come can watch us and we have about three hours of pre recorded content as well from Indigenous struggles all over the world.

Kelly Therese Pollock  19:18  
So I think one thing that, that I and probably a lot of people who who want to be good allies think about is, you know, Thanksgiving is traditionally a time that we get together with families and eat food and such and, you know, what, how would you want people to be thinking about this day? And you know, is it appropriate to still get together for Thanksgiving? What What would you like people to think about to do on a day like Thanksgiving?

Kisha James  19:45  
So I just want to stress that we're not against thanksgiving as a concept. We're against Thanksgiving with a capital T. And what I mean by that is that we have no issue with people getting together and eating with their families and saying thanks because that's a very important part of Native cultures, saying thanks. But we do have an issue with the propagation of the Thanksgiving myth. So something we always ask people to do is before they sit down to their Thanksgiving meal, talking about the real history of Thanksgiving, you know, it doesn't have to be long, it doesn't have to get into the bloody details if you don't want to, but it does need to challenge the myth because many people at your dinner table will probably have been taught some version of the Thanksgiving myth. So just, you know, 10 minutes of your time just addressing that, you know, for some people, this isn't a happy day. And why that is, is something that we really encourage people to do.

Kelly Therese Pollock  20:38  
And you know, you mentioned that this is something that you have known about and been taking part in since you were a kid. You know, I have little kids, and I am, you know, trying to raise them to be hopefully good allies and culturally sensitive, you know. Are there ways that you think that you know, I don't want to shield my kids from anything but you know, the that you think are sort of the the best way to approach this with, with kids, as you're thinking about sort of getting them interested and perhaps enraged. My kids get enraged about social justice pretty quickly. You know, but, but how you might recommend sort of introducing these concepts to children? 

Kisha James  21:18  
Yeah, so Iwould recommend introducing the idea that the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag were not friends, that the Pilgrims treated the Wampanoag unfairly. I think most kids can understand that concept and the idea that the Pilgrims took something from the Wampanoag, which is land, and that if you have older children, that they killed the Wampanoag. And I think also, a great way to go about teaching kids is to look at the contemporary tribes in whatever state you're living in. And also the Wampanoag and maybe go on our website, you know, every tribe has a website, and learn something about the tribe whose land you're on and talk about the fact that Native peoples are still here. You know, I think that's a really important thing to emphasize with children, so that they don't grow up thinking that we all went extinct. And then also, if your child's school does a Thanksgiving pageant, which a lot do, unfortunately, doing something about that, you know, because it's really not acceptable in 2021, for children to be dressing up as Pilgrims and Indians and perpetuating what we know to be a myth. So those are all sort of resources you can share with your children.

Kelly Therese Pollock  22:25  
Yeah. And so we've been sort of talking about the myth and what happened after, but let's back up a minute and talk about sort of what happened before this supposed Thanksgiving dinner. You know, that that's sort of the other side of the myth, right? That the, you know, the people who are here just sort of said, "Oh, wow, settlers. We've never seen people on a boat before." You know, so what what did it actually what was that relationship like between the the Wampanoag and the English and other Europeans who are coming over before 1620?

Kisha James  22:59  
Yeah, so colonization did not begin in 1620, I think is an important thing for people to realize. The English had been showing up for about maybe 40 years prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims. And their arrival began something called the Great Dying, which was Native peoples contracting diseases that they'd never seen before and dying off in huge numbers, as well as sort of sporadic massacres of Native peoples. So that had been happening for about 40 years before the Pilgrims showed up in 1620. The pilgrims did not land on Plymouth Rock. They landed in Provincetown, or what is today called Provincetown, where they proceeded to immediately rob Wampanoag graves at Corn Hill, and it included food items as well as anything pretty they saw, and their own journals describe these actions. They were quite rightly chased off by the local Wampanoag who were not thrilled that these people had shown up and started robbing their ancestors' graves. They then sailed across the harbor to Plymouth, where they were met by Massasoit, the great sachem of the Wampanoag Confederacy. And what a lot of people don't understand is that the reason why the Wampanoag saves the Pilgrims from starvation was largely due to diplomatic reasons, because if you're Massasoit, you're living in the middle of the Apocalypse. These pale people started showing up on the shores, and all of a sudden, all of your people are dying off of diseases you've never seen before and going missing and being sold into slavery, you know, so a new group has shown up and you've seen what they're capable of, and you've realized that they're going to keep showing up. And so if you're Massasoit, you want to make an alliance with them in a desperate attempt to save your people. And so that's sort of how the first interaction came about and why the Wampanoag saved the Pilgrims from starvation.

Kelly Therese Pollock  25:04  
And this dinner, this supposed Thanksgiving dinner wasn't this sort of coming together. We're one big happy family.

Kisha James  25:13  
No, it was also a diplomatic situation where the Wampanoag heard gunshots, and kind of came over to see what was up and what was happening and it turned into a meal. But there were no women present. There were no children present nothing like the storybooks would have you believe where it's usually, you know, women preparing this elaborate feast and you sitting down at a table with it wasn't anything like that. And it wasn't particularly friendly. It was, I would imagine, actually a little tense. And it wasn't called a Thanksgiving meal. The very first Thanksgiving was declared in 1637, to celebrate the massacre of over 700, Pequot men, women and children on the banks of the Mystic River in Connecticut. So like, that's actually where the concept of Thanksgiving comes from. It comes from a massacre of Native peoples, so nothing like the Thanksgiving myth would have you believe.

Kelly Therese Pollock  26:07  
Yeah. So I want to ask too, you recently graduated from Wellesley College, and you were able to give the land acknowledgement at the commencement ceremony. But can you talk a little bit about what what went up to that and why that was meaningful?

Kisha James  26:23  
Sure. So Wellesley College is situated on the homelands of the Massachusett tribe, which, of course, is where the state of Massachusetts got its name from. Wellesley, like most colleges and universities in this country, is built on stolen Native land. And well, it's not necessarily what is called a land grab university because the land it was built on was already previously owned by settlers. The the land was nevertheless not acquired fairly and certainly involved the massacre of Native peoples to get to the point where the university could be built. And the college had not been very good on Native issues. We don't have any Native faculty. We we didn't have many Native students. There's no Native American major or minor or studies classes being taught by Native people. So the land acknowledgement was a huge first step in beginning to repair the college's relationship with local Native peoples and is also a big first step because I was able to give it partially in Wampanoag, which was not exactly what the Massachusett tribe spoke. But it's similar enough that if there are ancestors still present on the land, which most traditional beliefs sort of hold to be true, and they would have been unable to understand me, which I think is a big first step as well, in sort of healing relationships with the land.

Kelly Therese Pollock  27:51  
Yeah, if people are doing events and things and think it's important to do a land acknowledgement, do you have advice for how best to approach that?

Kisha James  28:01  
Yes, so the first thing about land acknowledgments is that it's not enough to just recognize that you're on stolen land. There has to be action items involved in the land acknowledgement. And it can be, you know, we commit ourselves to learning more about Native history and then doing that. It can be we commit ourselves to getting to know the local tribe, forming your relationship with the local tribe, and then doing that. And it also needs to include the correct tribes. I've been to a lot of land acknowledgments that have been very hastily thrown together, that have gotten the tribes' names wrong. And, you know, I don't think that's really okay, especially when there are a lot of tools out there, that you can literally input your zip code, and it will tell you, whose land you're on. So I would just say, be conscious about what you're doing. And be careful about what you're doing when it comes to land acknowledgments and understand that it's only a first step in a very long path to some form of reconciliation.

Kelly Therese Pollock  29:00  
Yeah. The other thing that that you have done a lot of is put together a guide for people who want to buy from Indigenous businesses, a long Twitter thread on this. Can you talk some about that and you know, we we say a lot like we should think about Native Americans at times other than November but you know, how best to keep doing that and supporting Native American people?

Kisha James  29:28  
Sure. So the holiday season is coming up. So um, you know, buy from Native artisans. I put together the thread because I get tired of seeing non Native people selling Native crafts, because it is actually economically damaging to Native peoples. And I feel that morals should come before fashion sense. And so I wanted to put together a resource for people to easily have easy access to Native artisans and also to make people aware of something called the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, which is, you know, theoretically supposed to stop non Native people from marketing their goods as Native American. So I would say buying from Native peoples a great way to engage with us, I would say, cooking Native food is a great way to engage with Native culture all year round. If you live near a tribe that has a powwow, you can go and respect, respectfully spectate at the powwow. You know, there are all sorts of cultural events always happening, and all sorts of things always happening and many ways to engage with Native peoples. And I would just caution people against only engaging with us in October, November, and then forgetting about us for the rest of the year. Because Thanksgiving and Columbus Day/ Indigenous Peoples Day, are sort of the two main ways we're engaged with, and both revolve around Native American genocide. And so, you know, choosing some times that don't revolve around our genocide and are actually a celebration of Native peoples would be nice. 

Kelly Therese Pollock  30:56  
Yeah, definitely. I sometimes look at things like Native jewelry and worried that if I were to buy it, I want to buy it and support the artists, but that if I were to then wear the jewelry, that that might be cultural appropriation. So, you know, could you speak to that?

Kisha James  31:11  
Yeah. So, generally, jewelry is okay. You know, obviously, sacred items should be off limits: pipes, eagle feathers, which are already illegal for non Native people to own, bear claws, which are already illegal for non Native people to own, ribbon skirts, you know, not exactly okay for non Native people to wear them. But jewelry is actually and beadwork are usually very okay for non Native people to own because they actually have roots in our oppression, and were the only way that we could make money for decades, because job opportunities were so limited to Native peoples, especially on reservations, that arts and crafts was very much the only way that income could be made. So jewelry is generally safe to buy.

Kelly Therese Pollock  32:00  
Terrific. Great, then I'm going to go by a lot of jewelry. In addition to to looking at your thread and buying jewelry, you know, are there other ways that people who want to be allies can can support either Native people as a group or individual tribes, individual people?

Kisha James  32:21  
Sure. So I would say any ally, first and foremost, should do their research. There are a lot of resources out there written by Native peoples on anything you want to know. So if you're wondering if it's okay to call us American Indians, which, by the way, it's not, you know, that's out there and has been written on extensively. I would say that other ways to engage with us are obviously learning whose land you're on, learning the history of that land, because it's not enough to just say, "Oh, you know, I'm on Wampanoag land." You really need to go deeper than that and understand why you were able to eventually come to live on Wampanoag land, and the history behind that, and the fact that it's likely not going to be pretty. I would say, respectfully participating in our cultures is a great way for allies to interact, going to museums, if the museum has Native American artifacts that they shouldn't have, you know, working to get those back to the tribes, supporting Native activists never speaking for us. So for example, I do a lot of work on Indigenous Peoples Day. And there's a bad tendency for non Native people to just decide to try to pass Indigenous Peoples Day in their town without consulting us, which is not acceptable. Cuz I don't know how you're gonna declare Indigenous Peoples Day without letting an Indigenous person know that you're trying to do that, you know, just generally letting Native people take the lead on any of our issues, and also letting Native people take the lead on many climate struggles as well.

Kelly Therese Pollock  33:53  
Yeah, yeah. So I will put in the show notes, I will put a link to, to the National Day of Mourning information and also to your to your Twitter thread with the Indigenous businesses to support. Is there anything else that you want to make sure we talk about today?

Kisha James  34:13  
Nope. I think that's it. I think National Day of Mourning is a great starting point to challenging the Thanksgiving myth. 

Kelly Therese Pollock  34:20  
Yeah. Well, Kisha, thank you so so very much for sharing your time and your knowledge with me today. And I really hope that people will check out the National Day of Mourning and will take the time on Thanksgiving Day to to remember the true history.

Kisha James  34:38  
Thanks again for having me.

Teddy  34:40  
Thanks for listening to Unsung History. You can find the sources used for this episode at To the best of our knowledge, all audio and images used by Unsung History are in the public domain or are used with permission. You can find us on Twitter, or Instagram @Unsung__History or on Facebook at Unsung History Podcast. To contact us with questions or episode suggestions, please email If you enjoyed this podcast please rate and review and tell your friends.


Kisha JamesProfile Photo

Kisha James

Enrolled Aquinnah Wampanoag. Oglala Lakota. BA in Music from Wellesley College. She/her.