As members of the organizing committee for Indigenous Peoples Day Bedford, we urge Bedford citizens to vote YES on Article 34, Indigenous Peoples Day Recognition, at Town Meeting on May 15, 2021. By passing this article, Bedford will join the growing number of communities and fourteen states in celebrating this land’s First People every second Monday of October.
Editor’s Note: This letter was signed by Indigenous Peoples Day committee members Anne Caron, Shirley Fan-Chan, Alison Jimerson, Brenda Kelly, Robin Leake, Heather Leavell, Erin McCormack, Helen Pulizzi, and Sarah Sjostrom
Following the lead of Boston area Native leaders, our group has garnered support for Indigenous Peoples Day from the Bedford Select Board (who voted to recommend the article), Bedford School Committee, Superintendent of Schools, Bedford Embraces Diversity, local clergy, and many other organizations and individuals. Our committee is working diligently to provide education and resources for understanding the need for this change on our website www.IPDBedford.org and through the Bedford Citizen and other outlets.
Indigenous Nations within the U.S. have been passionately advocating for the replacement of Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day since the 1970s. Increasing numbers of white Americans are listening to their voices and learning the complete history of Columbus, a man responsible for the genocide of the people of the Caribbean and the establishment of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. These undeniable facts were well documented by Columbus and his sons in their journals, and in writings of contemporaries like Bartolomè de Las Casas and Michel de Montaigne.
The continued heroization of Columbus causes great pain and harm to Indigenous people. “Columbus Day for us is a constant reminder that the genocide and atrocities committed by early colonists against the Indigenous is not only accepted, but celebrated,” explains Faries Gray, the Sagamore of the Massachusetts Tribe on whose traditional lands present-day Bedford is located. This holiday compounds the intergenerational trauma Indigenous people carry with them today and teaches their children that their histories and cultures do not matter.
Non-Native children are also harmed when we continue to normalize the celebration of a brutal colonizer. “We are teaching the next generation that a man whose atrocities were condemned in his time, should have his cruelties overlooked in our time. Do we want to raise children who ignore violence?” asks Claudia Fox Tree, an educator and Indigenous rights activist of Arawak descent whose five children were educated in the Bedford Public Schools.
We believe that a holiday that celebrates the resilience of Indigenous peoples is far more truthful and reflective of our values as a community than one that honors a man whose legacy is characterized by white supremacy, colonial imperialism, and genocide. Advocating for this change is not erasing our history. Instead, we are making space to learn the truth, not only of Columbus’s misdeeds but of the histories and cultures of the peoples who inhabited the Americas and are still here today.
It is important to note that many Italian Americans support Indigenous-led efforts to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day (www.ItaliansforIPD.org). They understand that this effort is not anti-Italian; it is anti-Columbus.
Indigenous people are presenting us with a wonderful opportunity to lift each other up and create an environment for healing and reconciliation. We ask you to open your hearts, listen to their voices, and vote yes on Article 34.
To learn more about Indigenous-led statewide efforts to rename the holiday, visit www.IndigenousPeoplesDayMA.org.