Massachusetts Observes Indigenous People’s Day

Peace Advocate October 2023

Indigenous People's Day rally at Park Street, Boston, October 7, 2023
Indigenous People's Day rally at Park Street, Boston, October 7, 2023

by Craig Simpson 

Indigenous Peoples Day has become one of the busiest times of the year, as Indigenous activists work toward the end of the celebration of colonialist and mass murder Cristobal Colon. More and more people are learning that this navigator in the late 1400s who wasn’t even a good navigator had such a negative impact on the world. This is now common knowledge despite a small group of devoted fans in the North End of Boston and a few people with trucks and American Flags in Newton.

Indigenous Peoples Day is now recognized in Newton, Brookline, Watertown, Bedford and many other places in the Commonwealth. Bookstores and libraries have Indigenous Peoples Day displays. Brattle Theater has a Indigenous Peoples Day Film selection and even some parks recognize the tribes in their area.

One of the largest events in numbers and enthusiasm was the Indigenous Peoples Day March in downtown Boston. The United American Indian of New England (UAINE) and North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB) sponsored the annual march which drew hundreds to demonstrate in the rain for statewide Indigenous Peoples Day.  After a ceremony at Park Street Station we visited the State House and spoke about the five MILA bills.  We then walked to Faneuil Hall, or Slave Trader’s Hall, where we demanded the name of enslaver Peter Faneuil be removed from the national monument, one of Boston’s biggest tourist attractions.

Craig Simpson presented the Peacebuilder Award to Jean-Luc Pierite, October 8, 2023
Craig Simpson presented the Peacebuilder Award to Jean-Luc Pierite, October 8, 2023

On October 8, the Sunday of Indigenous Peoples Day weekend, MAPA held its annual dinner in Cambridge.  I was proud to present Jean-Luc Pierite, board president of the North American Indian Center (NAICOB), with our our annual Peacebuilders award; and Gail Melix, Mashpee Wampanoag, on the board of Native Land Conservancy and member of the Sandwich Friends Meeting, gave a pointed and informative Land Acknowledgement. She also passed out information on the Native Land Reparation Pledge, which MAPA’s Indigenous Solidarity Action Group has endorsed.

The State Legislature has held hearings on bills of the Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda during the last few weeks. People with purple shirts and IPD stickers filled up the Gardner Auditorium at the State house to hear testimony on changing Columbus Day into Indigenous Peoples Day. Other bills including the Native Heritage bill had a hearing in late September, and both the Native Curriculum and the Native Youth Commission bills were heard by the Joint Committee on Education.   Only the Native Mascot bill remains to be heard,most likely in November. We are working to push these bills forward.

On the Indigenous Peoples Day holiday, Oct. 9, a huge celebration was held in Newton that included Indigenous ceremony, dances, food, and vendors.  MAPA and the Community Land and Water Coalition/ Save the Pine Barrens shared a table with literature educating people on our work.

Craig Simpson coordinates MAPA’s Indigenous Solidarity action group