Posted on October 10, 2023

Columbus Day Debate Continues in Massachusetts

Lance Reynolds, Boston Herald, October 9, 2023

More than 300 cities and towns across Massachusetts will be recognizing Columbus Day on Monday, while around two dozen will be celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day.

But Indigenous people and their allies say the divide between what towns and cities formally recognize on the second Monday of October should not exist. They are behind a push at the State House to establish it as Indigenous Peoples Day, doing away with Columbus Day.

Opponents, on the other hand, say Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer, is worthy of a holiday because they believe he represents a part of Italian heritage.

An Indigenous Peoples Day bill, pending in the state Legislature for the third straight session, would recommend residents observe the day 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.”


Gov. Maura Healey approves the change, with the governor and her staff referring to the holiday as Indigenous Peoples Day internally. But Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano have not made any public stances on the bill, which has been approved out of committee the past two sessions but has failed to make it to the floor.

Jean-Luc Pierite, president of North American Center of Boston, organized Saturday’s rally and march {snip}

Pierite said he is hopeful the Indigenous Peoples Day bill will be fully approved this session as well as other pieces in the Indigenous legislative agenda.

Their requests include banning Native American mascots in schools, having Native American history and culture in public school curriculum, creating an education commission relative to educational attainment rates for American Indians and Alaskan Natives, and protecting Native American heritage by ensuring sacred objects don’t go to auction houses.


If Massachusetts does away with Columbus Day to make way for Indigenous Peoples Day, it would join Alaska, Iowa, Michigan, Oregon, Maine, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington D.C. in renaming the day, according to the Pew Research Center.