Unthanksgiving Day 2022: History, Significance and Celebrations

Unthanksgiving Day which is also known as National Day of Mourning or Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Ceremony is annually celebrated on every fourth Thursday of November which means this year it falls on November 24th in the United States. 

This annual event takes place on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay to honor the indigenous peoples of America and promote their rights. 

This holiday aims to educate the public about Native Americans in the United States, notably the Wampanoag and other tribes of the Eastern United States; dispel myths surrounding the Thanksgiving story in the United States; and raise awareness toward historical and ongoing struggles facing Native American tribes. 

Event Unthanksgiving Day
Date November 24, 2022
Day Thursday
Significance This holiday aims to educate the public about Native Americans in the United States.
Observed by United States


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Unthanksgiving Day History: 

Most of us are aware of the Thanksgiving Day that falls on the fourth Thursday of November every year. However, not many of us know about the Unthanksgiving Day that falls on the same day. It also coincides with the National Day of Mourning in Massachusetts. This day is seen as a counter-celebration to Thanksgiving Day designed to honor the Native Americans and promote their rights. It recalls indigenous people’s survival following European colonization of the Americas and celebrates their perseverance and resistance over time.  

As Thanksgiving story states that when the Mayflower passengers arrived on the shores of North America in 1621, they formed an historic peace treaty with the Wampanoag chief Ousamequin which, albeit briefly, allowed the two groups to coexist in their shared lands. The Wampanoag went on to teach their visitors how to hunt, plant crops and how to get the best of their harvest, saving these people, who would go on to be known as the Pilgrims, from starvation, leading to the events of the first Thanksgiving. 

However this is only a part of the story as over the years more settlers arrive and their colonies continued to expand into Native American land, and relations soured between the two, which came to a head following the death of Ousamequin some 40 years after the Mayflower had landed. What happened next is still considered by many to be the deadliest war in American history, leading to the deaths of thousands of Native American people, their enslavement and the loss of their land.  

The history of Unthanksgiving Day is an interesting one. Indigenous people began seeking to reclaim Alcatraz Island shortly after the prison was closed in 1963. On November 20, 1969, a group of Native Americans occupied the island of Alcatraz in San Francisco which lasted for 19 months. Later they were forcefully removed by the United States government. The International Treaty Council and American Indian Contemporary Arts together hosted the first Unthanksgiving Day on November 27, 1975. The organizers picked Thanksgiving Day to commemorate Unthanksgiving Day in order to remind people of the losses that Indians had to endure as a result of Europeans. 


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Unthanksgiving Day Significance: 

The event is designed to commemorate the survival of Indian tribes following the European colonization of the Americas. Organizers want it to serve in contrast and counter-celebration to the traditional American Thanksgiving in which the Pilgrims shared a meal with the Wampanoag tribe. As this is just a small part of the story as Thanksgiving does not focus on the aftermath events so this event is celebrated in protest of that as Thanksgiving undermines this truth. 

The United American Indians of New England (UAINE) sponsors this event. They maintain the stance that the Pilgrims arrived in North America and claimed tribal land for their own, as opposed to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with the local inhabitants. UAINE members believe that these settlers “introduced sexism, racism, anti-homosexual bigotry, jails, and the class system.” So they participate as a way to honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples today. 


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The whole purpose of observing this day is to teach the modern citizens of America about the suffering that people have gone through in the history of building the nation. And which mostly includes the Native Americans only. As during Thanksgiving this fact is mostly neglected amd the sufferings of Native Americans is greatly ignored. So this day opposes the meaning of Thanksgiving celebrations as there was no mutual agreement but forceful occupation and persecution of Native American land by the Europeans. 

Textbooks often glaze over the unjust treatment of Native Americans. Unthanksgiving Day, however, is a reminder that the people native to the Americas have been the recipients of a great deal of unfair treatment. Yes, Thanksgiving can be a great day filled with tons of good food and time spent with loving family and friends. However, the mission behind this day is to highlight that the Thanksgiving holiday is actually quite painful for some people. For quite a few Native Americans in New England, Thanksgiving marks a time when their ancestors were treated poorly. 


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Unthanksgiving Day Celebrations: 

Every year on the date of the United States Thanksgiving holiday in November, several thousand indigenous people and spectators travel to Alcatraz Island. Groups dance before sunrise, to honor their ancestors, while other groups demonstrate other aspects of their cultures and heritage and speak out for the rights of their people. The celebration is open to the public. 

So you can visit Alcatraz Island on Unthanksgiving Day. Join thousands of people there to mourn for the fallen native people and can also take part in the celebrations. In this way you will be not only able raise this very important issue in front of the public but also you will be able to enjoy the day with fun and celebrations  with awesome Native American culture. 

Supporting native people’s voices and rights is a great way to remember this day. The suffering endured by the indigenous people cannot be expressed in words and is not known to many people. You can use this day to help others understand their history and sufferings. Try to spread awareness to as many people as possible. 

Most Searched FAQs on Unthanksgiving Day: 

1. When is Unthanksgiving Day celebrated? 

Unthanksgiving Day is annually celebrated on every fourth Thursday of November in US. 

2. Why do we call Native Americans Indians? 

During the 15th century when Christopher Columbus landed on the American continent, he thought he landed in India. So, he referred to the indigenous tribes as Native Indians, and that struck on. 

3. What are the main indigenous groups in the Americas? 

According to the U.S. government, there are two main indigenous groups in the U.S. They are Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

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