Easthampton ready to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day

  • Easthampton Municipal Building, 50 Payson Avenue GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/2/2021 7:04:52 PM

EASTHAMPTON — The city may soon join a wave of communities around the nation in replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, with the City Council set to vote on a resolution to make the change at its Wednesday night meeting.

If the resolution passes, Easthampton will become the third community in Hampshire County to make the change. The anticipated vote will follow a public hearing.

Councilors Owen Zaret and Salem Derby worked with representatives from local tribes, including the Massachusett and Wampanoag tribes and Nipmuc Nation, Zaret said. Mahtowin Monroe of United American Indians of New England providing language for the resolution, and the Massachusetts-based Italian Americans for Indigenous Peoples Day called for the city to change the holiday.

Rhonda Anderson, the Western Massachusetts Commissioner on Indian Affairs and a member of the Iñupiaq-Athabascan tribe of Alaska, also voiced her support for the resolution.

“This change represents the recognition of indigenous people who continue to thrive on the continent despite centuries of intentional genocide and intentional cultural genocide,” Anderson said. “And we don’t need to be having a holiday that observes a man who brought colonialism, slave trade, genocide and, ultimately, the the erasure of accurate history of the indigenous people.”

The change would “appropriately reframe history,” Zaret said.

The shift from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day has prompted some pushback in communities around the country, with some of the opposition coming from those who say that Columbus Day should remain as a celebration of Italian-American heritage.

But those who support the change to Indigenous Peoples Day say Columbus is not the figure that should be at the center of a celebration.

Anderson said the change is “not erasing Italian history,” noting that October is already Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month and provides people with an “opportunity to celebrate Italian-Americans who actually contributed in a positive way.”

“Columbus is not one of them,” she said.

In 2016, Amherst became the first community in Massachusetts to officially replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. A day later, Northampton followed suit. An increasing number of communities in the state and around the country have also made the switch.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. on Wednesday over Zoom. A link to join is available at easthamptonma.gov/agendas-minutes/.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.
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