FRAMINGHAM – Earlier this year, Framingham and Ashland State Representative Jack Patrick Lewis filed a bill to eliminate Columbus Day in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
House Bill 3665 would instead re-name the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day.
The bill calls for the Governor to issue a proclamation and for the day to be ” be observed by the people, with appropriate exercises in the schools and otherwise, to acknowledge the history of genocide and discrimination against Indigenous peoples, and to recognize and celebrate the thriving cultures and continued resistance and resilience of Indigenous peoples and their tribal nations.”
“I was inspired to file H. 3665 because of conversations sparked by Framingham High School’s Black Student Union last year around adopting a similar measure locally,” said Rep. Lewis, who represents one-third of Framingham and the entire Town of Ashland.
The elected Framingham School Committee, in a split vote, decided to rename the holiday Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day.
“This is the first year this bill has been filed in Massachusetts, and I look forward to continuing to fight for recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the Commonwealth,” said Rep. Lewis. “While many calendars mark the second Monday in October as Columbus Day, there is a growing and important movement to shift this holiday to instead celebrate the past and current culture, history, and contributions of the Indigenous people whose land Christopher Columbus and the other European colonizers invaded.”
There was a hearing on the Bill at the State House in May, but the Bill still sits in Committee, as of Columbus Day 2019.
The State of Colorado was the first state to declare Columbus Day as a holiday in 1906.
Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1937. It celebrates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492.
It is a state holiday in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but not all parts of the United States celebrate Columbus Day. It is not a public holiday in some states, including California, Oregon, Nevada and Hawaii.
“I acknowledge the role that Christopher Columbus plays in our national psyche, and for Italian-Americans like myself, the special place it gives us in American history,” said Rep. Lewis to SOURCE. “However, the reality of his time in the Americas and his intentional role in terrorizing the native peoples he came in contact with cannot be ignored. It is hard to accept that the things we learned in grade school were never true, but we have an obligation to history and to our children to move beyond the outdated and oversimplified version of history many of us were taught.”
Rep Lewis said “the man we have been celebrating since the 1930’s was a conqueror, whose actions brought about centuries of genocide and discrimination against Indigenous peoples across the Americas. He instituted brutal tactics to subjugate those he encountered, treating those encountered as less than human, raping them and their land for his own profit. Even by the standards of his own day, his brutality was such that he was stripped of his title and sent back to Spain in shackles.”
Lewis said he wants the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to follow other states who have renamed the holiday.
“Let us instead teach our children about the true history of European Colonialism, Indigenous Genocide and their long-lasting impacts on Indigenous communities across the country. Let us instead celebrate the thriving cultures and resilience of the Wampanoag, Massachusett, Nipmuck, Pennacook, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Quinnipiac, and other tribes on whose lands we reside and who continue to fight for their rights, equity, and well-being,” said Rep. Lewis.
Cambridge, Brookline, and Somerville have all changed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. Wellesley is also considering the change too.
Mayor Yvonne Spicer has not mentioned a change in the City of Framingham.
Rep. Lewis suggested “everyone learn more about the Indigenous people in your community and follow their lead to create a society that recognizes and rectifies historic and present injustices. You can learn more about some of that work at http://maindigenousagenda.org/.”
Photo of the Christopher Columbus Statue in Boston on the waterfront. (Courtesy)