TAMPA, Fla. — Starting at sunrise underneath Tampa’s Christopher Columbus statue along Bayshore Boulevard, members of the Florida Indigenous Alliance began a day of fasting and mourning in honor of native ancestors on Thanksgiving.
“I think that there’s a disconnect between the historical reasons for Thanksgiving, but it’s still there,” said Sheridan Murphy, the organization's director. “I think moving away from a holiday that has an ingrained relationship with genocide is something we need to do.”
Thursday’s demonstration is part of a larger demonstration, known as the National Day of Mourning, which is held every Thanksgiving.
“Since 1970, native organizations, including the American Indian Movement, United American Indians of New England and the International [Indian] Treaty Council do a day of mourning on Thanksgiving to remember not only the Wampanoag people that were massacred…but to also commemorate the ongoing struggles of native peoples throughout North and South America,” Murphy said.
Robert Rosa, also with the Florida Indigenous Alliance, said this message is personal to him as a descendant of the Taino people native to Florida and the Caribbean.
“Since 1492, there's been nothing but lies spread,” Rosa said. “All the murder that Columbus did, all the massacres that the English did, and proclamated days such as Columbus Day, such as Thanksgiving Day — all that has to be erased. We are supposed to be one human beings, all of us. And to do that…the truth needs to be told.”
Murphy, who says he traces his lineage to the Lakota people, encourages people to educate themselves on the origins of Thanksgiving and the history of native people as a whole.
“People didn't just pop up here. There were people that lived here, that were displaced, disconnected, and in some cases slaughtered so [other] people could live here,” he said. “Understand the reality that while we talk about 1637 and 1800s of what happened to native people, it's still occurring.
“You have the struggles with native people trying to prevent pipelines going through the reservations. These things are ongoing," he added.
Murphy also highlighted the recent discovery of indigenous mass graves at North American boarding schools as another atrocity to native people.
“I think understanding that reality, just that little bit of a tie into today would help move people in a positive direction,” he said. “Whether you do thanks day on the 25th of November or you do it every day, or you incorporate it a different time — doesn't matter so much as acknowledging the reality of what happened to native people and why this holiday exists.”