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By : Steve Gillis

8 min read

United American Indians of New England (UAINE), the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB), and others have called for a march and rally on October 7 to demand that elected authorities in Massachusetts forever replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day (IPD).

The decades-long struggle of Indigenous peoples in Massachusetts, where the Pilgrims carried out “first encounter” land thefts and genocide, aims to overturn centuries of entrenched racist mythology wrapped up in the triumphalist federal holiday known as Columbus Day.

The 2017 murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, at the hands of fascists, and the police lynching of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, sparked a national wave of actions targeting racist icons, including Christopher Columbus. On June 10, 2020, a statue of Christopher Columbus in Boston’s North End was beheaded, and statues in Richmond, Virginia, and St. Paul, Minnesota, were similarly targeted. Indigenous organizers succeeded in winning IPD declarations in cities and states coast to coast, but not in Boston, where a 1675 law banning Native Americans from entering the city remained on the books until 2004.

Past time for Massachusetts officials to replace colonial myths

UAINE and NAICOB succeeded in 2021, appearing at the press podium with Kim Janey, Boston’s first woman, first Black mayor, to witness the signing of an executive order replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. “Observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day is about replacing the colonial myths passed down from generation to generation with the true history of the land upon which our nation was founded,” said Janey. Unfortunately, in 2022, the incoming Democratic mayor, Michelle Wu, bent to racist political pressure and declared the day “Italian Heritage Day” alongside IPD.

In Massachusetts—where the state flag, which depicts a white arm brandishing a sword above an Indigenous man’s head, still flies three years after the State House voted to change it —intransigent legislators continue to defend the Columbus myth, holding Indigenous Peoples’ Day bills in committee year after year. This is despite persistent efforts by the Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda and thousands of supporters across the state.

Mahtowin Munro (Lakota), co-leader of United American Indians of New England (UAINE) and lead organizer for, explained: “We call on the MA State Legislature to step up now and pass our statewide Indigenous Peoples’ Day bill and our other legislation currently before them, including bills to ban Native American team mascots, to provide for Indigenous curriculum content in the public schools, to protect sacred Native American heritage, and to improve educational outcomes for Indigenous students.”

IPD action to also target Faneuil Hall

For many years, IPD supporters have joined Rev. Kevin Peterson and The New Democracy Coalition in their movement to rename Faneuil Hall, one of Boston’s most popular tourist traps. Faneuil Hall’s namesake, Peter Faneuil, was one of Boston’s wealthiest settler capitalists who perfected for profit the buying and selling of enslaved Black and Indigenous persons.

Many in Boston’s Black and Indigenous communities have joined Rev. Peterson in speaking out and protesting at the very site where Faneuil conducted his despicable auctions of hundreds of enslaved children, women and men. This year’s IPD march plans to again encircle and rally at the site, typically thronged with thousands of tourists, before marching to the waterfront Christopher Columbus Park, to demand an immediate name change there as well.

“In a city and country that largely erases Indigenous people, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a day to learn about and celebrate Indigenous history and contemporary Indigenous peoples and cultures,” said Munro. “It should be only a first step for Boston to begin to build relationships with Indigenous people and begin to address the many injustices faced by us here and elsewhere. It is time for us to stop being ignored and erased.”

—Workers World Party, Boston Bureau

Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #162 October 2023


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