Anjali Rajput, Secretary of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee
National Geographic, newspapers from around the country, and other sources note reasons why replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day is so important.
An internet search reveals that “Indigenous Peoples Day arose as an alternative to Columbus Day, which Native Americans protested for honoring a man who enabled their colonization and forced assimilation,” (www.nationalgeographic.com). Indeed, “His arrival led to the forceful taking of land and set the stage for widespread death and loss of indigenous ways of life,” (Arizona Mirror, www.azmirror.com, October 11, 2021; www.theconversation.com, October 7 2021).
Over 20 cities and towns in Massachusetts, over 130 cities and towns across the country and 17 states – Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin – have established Indigenous Peoples Day superseding Columbus Day.
Indigenous Peoples Day is an opportunity, already begun in the Westford Public Schools, to really understand the history of Indigenous Peoples in this state and in this country – it is a tragic history and a history that includes important past and current contributions of Indigenous Peoples.
And while it is important to accurately represent Columbus as a part of the Age of Exploration, there are other reasons, powerful reasons, for Indigenous Peoples Day, including the fact that Indigenous People were living and thriving all over the Americas long before they were “discovered”.
From a national perspective, Mandy Van Heuvelen, the cultural interpreter coordinator at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian pointed out, “What these changes accomplish, piece by piece, is visibility for Native people in the United States. Until Native people are or are fully seen in our society and in everyday life, we can’t accomplish those bigger changes. As long as Native people remain invisible, it’s much easier for people to look past those real issues and those real concerns within those communities.” (Oregon Public Radio, www.opb.org, October 10, 2022)
And for a regional state perspective, the Governor of Maine, Janet Mills, put it this way on October 11, 2021: “Maine’s culture is in large part the direct result of those who first hunted, farmed, fished, and occupied much of the land that we call our home.
On Indigenous Peoples Day, let us pay tribute to those who were the first stewards of this land we love; celebrate their many contributions to our great state; recommit ourselves to our shared home and future, with respect and trust for one another.” Governor Mills signed LD 179, An Act to Replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day into law On April 26, 2019.
Please vote yes for Ballot Question 3 on May 2 to establish Indigenous Peoples Day in Westford, superseding Columbus Day.
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