Indigenous Peoples holiday in Amherst and Northampton

  • Christopher Columbus will not be celebrated Monday in Amherst and Northampton Library of Congress—Wikimedia Commons image

Staff Writer
Published: 10/8/2016 2:33:30 AM

Indigenous peoples, and not Christopher Columbus, will be recognized with a holiday Monday in both Amherst and Northampton, as well as a handful of local schools that have adjusted their calendars.

For the Amherst public school students who accomplished their goal of getting Amherst Town Meeting in May to remove Columbus Day from the town calendars, their continued work will include assisting native tribes. 

“Now the focus is on helping indigenous peoples who are oppressed, because it’s such a big issue today,” says Aarti Lamberg, a high school freshman and member of a student group calling itself Student Advocates for Change.

Read: Amherst middle school students advocate for change to Columbus Day

Members of this group will be at Brookfield Farm, 24 Hulst Road, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, holding a bake sale to raise money for those opposing construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, and residents of Louisiana affected by recent flooding.

Lamberg said she and other members of that group, who learned about Columbus in a class taught by social studies teacher Matthew Venditti, wanted to continue their activism, and view the pipeline as problematic because it could compromise water sources and sacred land used by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Lamberg said the students also hope to speak to Solomon Goldstein-Rose, the apparent successor to Ellen Story as Amherst’s state representative, to explain why legislation should be filed to get the name of the holiday changed statewide.

The Northampton City Council in May adopted a resolution also making the second Monday in October Indigenous Peoples Day.

The Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Public Charter School in South Hadley also has changed the Oct. 10 holiday on its calendar to Indigenous Peoples Day. 

This came after two current eighth-grade students, Alberto Archeval and Nathaniel Butler, last spring established a petition that was signed by 300 students. They had learned about the history of the Caribbean in a humanities class taught by Freja Joslin.

The signatures led to support from the school’s trustees, and Head of School Scott Goldman implemented the name change.

“I am very proud of the fact that these two seventh grade students turned their thoughts into action and helped to bring about this change,” Goldman said in a statement.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at

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