by Craig Simpson
This year’s Indigenous Peoples Day was much different than last. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Boston Marathon was moved from its usual date in April to so-called “Columbus Day.” Indigenous people, including the Massachusett tribe and allies in Newton, stood their ground. Practically the whole Marathon runs through towns and cities of the Massachusett and Nipmuc lands. Boycotts and disruption were threatened. The Boston Athletic Association, the organizers of the marathon, quickly relented. They apologized, and agreed to do land acknowledgements and honor Indigenous runners of the past.
The outgoing Mayor of Boston, Kim Janey—Boston’s first woman and Black mayor—signed an executive order October 6 designating the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day. She also opened talks for the first time with local Indigenous leaders, most notably the Massachusett tribe, about replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. This was important: executive orders can be rescinded, but people now recognize the change as in place.
The State House finally had a hearing of the Joint Committee of House Ways and Means on the Indigenous Peoples Bill, H.3191/S2027, at which Indigenous Leaders asked and were permitted to testify first. There were representatives of all Massachusetts tribal nations. Allies spoke and submitted testimony.
The annual March from Park Street Station was double the size of last year’s. More Indigenous peoples than ever, students- high school and university, environmentalists, and veterans of Line 3 showed up. The march stopped at the State House to call on Governor Baker to support legislation and declare the holiday Indigenous Peoples Day. It then progressed to Faneuil Hall, an old slave market site, where African American speakers called for the renaming of the Hall in honor of Crispus Attucks—an Indigenous/Black activist killed a block away in the 1770 Boston massacre. The march ended in so-called “Columbus Waterfront Park.” Taino children climbed the empty pedestal where the Cristoforo Colon statue stood until it was removed a year ago, as their mother talked about renaming the park.
All over Massachusetts there were numerous events, including land acknowledgements, sharing of food and art, dances, and speeches: the most ever, in towns small and large. Even Martha’s Vineyard, home of the Aquinnah Wampanoags, celebrated its first Indigenous Peoples Day.
We must pass H.3191/S2027 in the Massachusetts Legislature. It is time for the State to recognize and celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.
The Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda has five bills. MAPA has endorsed all five. Let’s get them passed: go to http://maindigenousagenda.org/ for more information.
We invite you to join us in Plymouth on November 25th at 12:00pm for the National Day of Mourning. It is time for us to support Indigenous Peoples and clean up our mess.
— Craig Simpson chairs MAPA’s Indigenous Solidarity subgroup. He lives in Dorchester.