TAMPA, Fla. — For many, Thanksgiving is a day to spend time with friends and family. For indigenous groups and their allies, it is a day to mourn.
From sunrise to sunset, the Florida Indigenous Alliance gathered outside the newly fenced-in Columbus Statue along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa. They joined others nationwide for the National Day of Morning, a tradition that’s been going more than 50 years.
"It was started in Massachusetts by Native American Indians of New England as a response to the celebration of Plymouth Rock landing, because that meant genocide for [native] people," said Sheridan Murphy, executive director of the Florida Indigenous Alliance.
Since 1970, indigenous communities have honored National Day of Mourning in place of Thanksgiving, saying the American holiday is a painful reminder of the country’s genocidal past, and the decimation of native culture.
"There was bloodshed. There was wrongdoing by the colonizers," said Chris Castillo, who participated in the National Day of Mourning at Columbus Statue Park in Tampa.
Mourners have gathered at the Christopher Columbus statue in Tampa for years. Thursday, new fencing prevented them from getting near the statue.
"What they did today by putting that fence up—they want to keep native people out," Murphy said. "All we’ve ever done on Thanksgiving Day or Day of Mourning is go in there and have prayer, like we’re doing out here now."
10 Investigates’ Emerald Morrow reached out to the city for comment on the new fencing. A spokesperson said he would look into why it was put up.
Protesters have spilled fake blood on the statue before, but those there today said that is not part of their day of mourning. Murphy said the focus is on honoring indigenous people and history.
"People need to learn the truth. The total reality of how America came to be, and what’s continuing to go on in America. And till that’s done, there won’t be any understanding," he said. "There won’t be any reconciliation because you can’t have that without the truth."