Native Lives Matter holds candlelight vigil on National Day of Mourning

By Rhea Smykalski and Gabe Black Elk |
December 2, 2020
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Minneapolis protesters at National Day of Mourning.
Minneapolis protesters at National Day of Mourning. (Emma Leigh Sron)

Minneapolis, MN - Over 100 protesters gathered in Minneapolis to stand in solidarity with Indigenous people on Thanksgiving, November 26, for a National Day of Mourning. It is a reminder of the genocide and suffering of Native Americans that still continues today. 400 years have passed since Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and colonized the land Native Americans had been living on for thousands of years. In the shadow of the Minneapolis skyline, several speakers touched on the many struggles Indigenous people face today and the erasure of their people.

Tonia Black Elk, an organizer from Native Lives Matter, stood in front of a wall of red dresses and told the crowd, "We've got a lot of Indigenous people here in the Twin Cities who aren't getting help and who are still dealing with a big housing crisis. Indigenous people shouldn't be homeless on their own homelands. There are also a lot of families here who have lost family members to police brutality. We shouldn't be murdered on our own homelands. We're hurting every day and missing our loved ones. Ancestral genocide is embedded into our DNA. We have the highest rates of police brutality and violence against us. But we're still here together fighting this current racist system that continues to take our women, our children, our men, and our boys."

She went on to talk about the origins of the first Thanksgiving and how the Pilgrims celebrated the murdering of Native Americans and explained that their land has been continually pillaged and their treaties broken. Line 3, a tar sands oil pipeline, is set to be replaced in northern Minnesota on Native land and activists are already being arrested as they shut down work related to the pipeline. Henry Gipp, brother of Ryan Gipp of Standing Rock, who was murdered by police in North Dakota, traveled from Fargo to speak and read a poem he wrote that concluded by engaging the crowd in a call and response to chant "We're still here."

Francisco Sánchez from Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee addressed the crowd and spoke about solidarity and the familiar struggles that immigrants, refugees and other oppressed groups face. "Today is a day where white people gather and actively ignore the fact that their ancestors committed genocide.”

Sánchez described the continuing oppression in terms of oil pipelines, police brutality, separation of families, locking children in cages and forced sterilization. He continued, "Their genocide has failed and has only created connection and unity because our communities have been shackled together since the beginning of colonization."

The protesters marched through Northeast Minneapolis while carrying banners and signs that read, "No more genocide! This is Native land!" and "No more ThanksKilling!" and chanting "There's no pride in genocide!" Local residents came out of their houses and families opened their balconies with fists raised in solidarity as they marched by.

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