|As our lives become busy making plans with friends and family and holiday celebrations in our congregations, I am mindful that this year marks the 52nd annual Day of Mourning protest—an event that began when Frank Wamsutta James* called upon hundreds of Indigenous Americans and allies to gather in Plymouth, Massachusetts and declare Thanksgiving Day a National Day of Mourning for Native Americans.|
James wrote: “History wants us to believe that the Indian was a savage, illiterate, uncivilized animal. A history that was written by an organized, disciplined people, to expose us as an unorganized and undisciplined entity. Two distinctly different cultures met. One thought they must control life; the other believed life was to be enjoyed, because nature decreed it.”
The National Day of Mourning event continues annually in Plymouth, now led by the United American Indians of New England (UAINE). Learn how your congregation can support the protests.
Narratives of white supremacy have the effect of separating us from one another and from our common humanity.
Yes, there is something deeply life-giving and liberating about our theology that says we are part of one great family of all souls, that our destiny is bound together and no one is outside of the circle of love. Yet, it also matters that we are honest about the ways that our own Unitarian Universalism has been shaped by colonialism and the ideology of Christian supremacy. None of us are unharmed by these damaging ideologies and the systems of exploitation built upon them—even as the impacts are different depending on the identities we hold. Fundamentally, narratives of white supremacy and Christian dominance have the effect of separating us from one another and from our common humanity and interdependence.
In our congregations, I continue to be inspired by all the ways Unitarian Universalists like you are showing up. Many are deeply examining the complicity of our nation’s stories in hiding the truth of the brutality and conquest of peoples and lands that have formed the foundation of U.S. history. And many are working to disrupt and dismantle our continued perpetuation of racial and caste-like systems of hierarchy and domination. May we keep doing this work to dismantle these myths and offer a bolder, more powerful “Yes!” to the liberating change that is possible within our faith communities.
As we enter into this season of turning and change, let us give thanks in a genuine manner. Let our gratitude flow from our deep, ongoing commitment to justice and equity. Let our gratitude grow from the beauty and sustenance of the earth, and the miracle and joy of life. Let our gratitude grow from the opportunities we have to be together authentically—whether virtually or in person, in the fullness of our humanity. And let us continue to grow in our capacity for courage, compassion, solidarity and justice within and beyond our communities.
Yours in love,
P.S. Watch the 2020 Day of Mourning Worship service on YouTube. My sermon begins at approximately 40 minutes in.
*Wamsutta (Frank B.) James was an Aquinnah Wampanoag leader and the founder of UAINE.
Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray spends her days strengthening the thriving mission of this faith. In her spare time, she enjoys being with her family and playing with their dog, Hercules.