“Nonnative people often don’t listen to native people … this is a way of trying to re-center things.”
While the Commonwealth still recognizes today as Columbus Day, backers of replacing it with Indigenous Peoples Day said it would be an important first step in honoring the history and resilience of native peoples, and they believe momentum is on their side.
In libraries, parks, museums, and town halls, supporters of Indigenous Peoples Day are gathering to celebrate the heritage of Native Americans.
Mahtowin Munro, organizer for the Massachusetts Statewide Indigenous Peoples Day Campaign, said more young people are questioning the history of Columbus and Native Americans they have learned in school, and want to know where Native Americans are today.
“It’s really important to have an understanding of local Indigenous history,” Munro said. “To understand whose land you’re on, to understand what tribal peoples live in your area, things like that.”
Munro said changing the holiday would help undo some of the harm done to Indigenous people and replace it with something positive. More than 20 communities in the Commonwealth, including Boston, officially recognize Indigenous Peoples Day and supporters plan to refile their bill before the legislative session begins in January.
Munro thinks now more than ever, Indigenous voices are needed in the public sphere, especially in solving climate change. She pointed out many native communities are directly affected by the warming climate, due to their relationship with the environment, and others can learn from their experience.
“But the problem has been that nonnative people often don’t listen to native people,” Munro observed. “So this is a way of trying to improve some things and re-center things.”
Munro added there has been some pushback to the effort to replace Columbus Day. She said looking to the past can be painful, but emphasized that everyone can benefit from a better understanding of history.
Kathryn Carley began her career in community radio, and is happy to be back, covering the New England region for Public News Service. Getting her start at KFAI in Minneapolis, Carley graduated from the University of Minnesota and then worked as a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, focusing on energy and agriculture. Moving to Washington, D.C., she filed stories for The Pacifica Network News and The Pacifica Report. Later Carley worked as News Host for New York Public Radio, WNYC as well as Co-Anchor for Newsweek’s long running radio program, Newsweek on Air. Carley also served as News Anchor for New York Times Radio. She now lives near Boston, MA.