The 10th Annual Native American Thanks Giving celebration brought more than 100 people to sing, pray, and feast on a traditional harvest in Mashpee on Saturday.
The group began the day at the Old Indian Meeting House, where prayers and traditions were observed, before moving to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Community and Government building, where the food was served.
“We always have beans, macaroni and cheese… ham, turkey, and chicken, whatever. But, you know, there’s always gotta be squash,” laughed Cherie Peters, who was one of the many to contribute homemade meals.
Deacon Wayne “Big Oak” Jackson, a Wampanoag elder, said the day was one to celebrate the community and to give thanks.
“We can still go down to the bay and grab the oysters, the clams, the quahogs. You have to be thankful for these things, because these things are what kept our ancestors alive,” he said.
During the morning ceremony, attendees gave thanks for their revived language, young love, late wives, and revered elders.
The celebration falls just days before the national Thanksgiving holiday, when many native Americans observe a Day of Mourning. It’s a day to remember the ancestors killed and lands stolen by pilgrims and European colonizers.
“It becomes a national Day of Mourning for us because we want to remember we were hurt, killed, slaughtered, destroyed, lands taken away from us,” said Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. “But we still are those loving, peace-first people.”
On Thursday, many Native Americans will gather on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth to commemorate the 50th annual National Day of Mourning.
Still, said Wampanoag elder Coreen “Half Moon” Moore, the weekend was a time for something else.
“You know we can concentrate on the negative, but we’d rather concentrate on the positive: our ancestors, and how we got here today,” she said. “There is a time to mourn what happened to your people, but also to celebrate that we are still here.”