Voting to Honor and Celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day
On May 1st the residents of Sharon have an opportunity to honor the history and contributions of Indigenous peoples by replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. In October of 2021, SREA released a blog post in honor of Indigenous Peoples Day which provided a more full historical context of Columbus and the importance of making this change. We are revisiting this topic now as the Sharon Select Board has sponsored a warrant article to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in the Sharon Bylaws. It is integral that Sharon community members join together in support of this change by attending this year’s town meeting on Monday, May 1st at 7pm at the Sharon High School auditorium and voting to support the warrant article.
Many of us have been taught inaccurate, incomplete, and idealized histories of Columbus’ expeditions. In more recent years, there has been an increased awareness from those outside of Indigenous communities of a more accurate account of the arrival of Columbus in the “new world.” It has been documented that Columbus never set foot on what is now known as the United States, although he has been inaccurately credited with its discovery. Scientific research tells us that Indigenous Peoples have been living on and caring for this land for at least 20,000 years. An inhabited land cannot be ‘discovered’, nor was Columbus the first explorer to reach the Americas. While Christopher Columbus has been uplifted as a hero, there is evidence from his own diaries that boasts of the harm he and his crew perpetrated against the Taino people. He noted, “They would make fine servants … With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” Columbus initiated the transatlantic slave trade and captured over 500 Taino people. Columbus’ voyage led to an ongoing genocide that occurred through slavery, forced removal policies, and the stealing of Indigenous children and placing them in boarding schools until 1978. The violence against Indigenous people continues to this day in the invisibility of missing and murdered Indigenous women, through the adoption of Native children into White families through the foster care system, and the continued stripping away of land, culture, religion, and language through harmful governmental policy. At the time that Columbus arrived on the island of Hispaniola and he first encountered the Taino, Indigenous people encompassed 100% of the population of the land now known as the United States. As of the time of the last U.S. census, Native people account for 2% of the population. Despite these staggering figures, Indigenous communities continue to have a strong and enduring presence on this land. There are currently 574 federally recognized sovereign tribal nations and over 200 additional tribes in the United States each with their own distinct cultures, rich histories, and vital contributions to the fabric of society.
The Indigenous-led movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day began in 1977 when it was first proposed by a delegation of tribal nations at the United Nations International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas. In Massachusetts, this movement is being led by Indigenous Peoples Day MA “as a refusal to allow the genocide of millions of Indigenous peoples to go unnoticed” and as “a way to correct false histories, honor Indigenous peoples, and begin to correct some of the countless wrongs committed against Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island.” There has been pushback from some sects of the Italian community expressing that no longer celebrating Columbus Day would be “anti-Italian.” Indigenous advocates draw this important distinction: “we understand that Columbus and the harm he caused doesn’t represent the Italian people as a whole...and this move is not “anti-Italian” but is instead anti-genocide.” Italian Americans for Indigenous Peoples Day formed in solidarity with the thousands of Native people across Massachusetts advocating for the holiday name change.
Across the state, at least 20 Massachusetts cities and towns have officially replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. And this year the city of Boston joined the growing number of cities and towns to make this change. Colleges, universities, and public K-12 school districts are also choosing instead to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day. Locally, in the winter of 2021, the Sharon School Committee began discussions about the impact of keeping both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day on the school calendar. Following an advisory opinion from the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee describing the importance of not continuing to glorify Christopher Columbus and the colonial genocide that followed his arrival, the School Committee unanimously voted to remove Columbus Day from the School calendars and solely recognize Indigenous Peoples Day. Several months later the Select Board followed the lead of the School Committee and unanimously voted to honor the first Indigenous Peoples Day in Sharon until it could officially be changed through a town meeting vote. In 2022 the Select Board and DEIC co-sponsored an article on the town meeting warrant to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day in perpetuity, but the warrant article did not make it to a vote on a technicality.
This year’s town meeting will be held on May 1st at 7pm in the High School auditorium. The vast majority of public comments from Sharon residents about the holiday name change expressed support for Indigenous Peoples Day in order to acknowledge the harm perpetrated by Columbus and as a way to honor the resilience and contributions of Indigenous peoples. Please vote in support of the warrant article on May 1st.
Vote on May 1st
Show up to vote in support of changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day in Sharon. Follow the lead of the Sharon School Committee, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee, and Select Board by casting your vote in support of Indigenous Peoples Day at the High School auditorium on May 1st at 7pm.
Educate your children
Talk to your children or students about the true history of Columbus and its impact on Indigenous peoples by dispelling myths and increasing representation in the curriculum and on their bookshelves. There are great suggestions and book lists here, here, and here.
Educate your students