More than 20 Massachusetts communities have already taken steps to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples Day for the second Monday in October before state-level action is taken.
Despite the fact that these adoptions are acknowledged, the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness reported that a bill in the state legislature would have formally replaced Columbus Day throughout the entire state. According to the MCNAA website, this modification “acknowledges the detrimental impact of glorifying Columbus as a hero.”
Massachusetts continues to observe Columbus Day in its official capacity, and the bill was not put to a vote before the session ended in July.
“Indigenous Peoples Day replaces something negative with something positive – an increased awareness of Indigenous Peoples and a celebration of Indigenous resilience and survival, in Massachusetts as well as throughout the Americas,” MCNAA’s website continues.
An in-person presentation by artist Deborah Spears Moorehead, a descendant of the Wampanoag chief who met the Pilgrims Massasoit, was one of the first events of the month on October 1 in Arlington.
Some of these Massachusetts towns have already held their first-ever celebrations. On October 2, the Bedford Embraces Diversity organization, the Parents Diversity Council, and the nonprofit Indigenous People’s Day Bedford presented the city’s first commemoration at Middlesex Community College.
On October 9, the Mashpee Wampanoag Nation’s Eastern Suns Drummers and Dancers performed live in Belmont.
On October 9, Wellesley hosted the online conference “When the Land Speaks: An Untold History and Living Presence of the Indigenous of Massachusetts,” where speaker Larry Spotted Crow Mann of the Nipmuc Nation discussed the festival and the state’s indigenous history.
Boston, Brookline, Barrington, Marblehead, Newton, and Salem will all host physical or virtual activities on October 10. On October 13, the Cambridge Public Library will hold a virtual exhibition of “Blood Snow,” a volume of poetry written by Inupiaq author dg nanouk okpik.
Following the holiday, other events are planned, including the online symposium “The Forgotten Nations: Native Tribes of New England” in Melrose on October 13 that will be presented by Oneida Nation of Wisconsin educator Heather Bruegel.
The inaugural celebrations of Indigenous Peoples’ Day will take place in Watertown and other cities that have not yet done so.
In addition to celebrations, MCNAA advises consumers to support indigenous-owned businesses, read and discuss books written by indigenous authors, educate others about Indigenous People’s Day, establish a Slack channel for discussion, make charitable contributions, and skip Columbus Day in order to “start a new tradition with family and friends of observing Indigenous Peoples Day.”
Amherst, Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Brookline, Cambridge, Easthampton, Falmouth, Great Barrington, Holyoke, Marblehead, Mashpee, Maynard, Melrose, Newton, Northampton, Provincetown, Salem, Somerville, and Wellesley were recognized by the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness for taking the initiative to replace Columbus Day with the new holiday.
In 2021, former Boston mayor Kim Janey signed an executive order establishing Indigenous People’s Day as the second Monday of October in the city.
For a comprehensive list of Indigenous People’s Day events across Massachusetts, visit Cultural Survival, Inc.’s website. They are a nonprofit organization based in Cambridge.