On Tuesday, the State House heard public comments regarding a bill that would rename the state’s Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Sixth graders from Amherst came to Boston to testify, and they made up a large portion of the speakers.
There is still debate about changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day throughout the Commonwealth.
“Twenty states and the District of Columbia observe Native American or Indigenous Peoples’ Day, in addition to or in replacement of Columbus Day,” said State Senator Jo Comerford. “Let us change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a holiday to honor those who first settled this land. This holiday will pay rightful tribute to the contributions of indigenous people in Massachusetts past, present, and future.”
“This commonwealth can greatly recognize indigenous people without throwing the Italian people collectively under the bus,” said State Representative Jeffery Rosario Turco. “A bill that basically disregards contributions of Italian American people is offensive to so many across this commonwealth.”
Three sixth graders from Fort River Elementary School in Amherst were among the purple-clad supporters of the bill who sat at the State House.
“We find it important that indigenous people be recognized, not Columbus because he really treated the indigenous people in terrible ways,” said Fort River Elementary School sixth grader Nina Healey.
They are asking for change because of this.
“It feels like it’s unfair to all the indigenous people ,” said Elo Schwabel, a student at Fort River Elementary School.
They said to Western Mass News that the inspiration came from a class project from the previous academic year. The district’s language arts curriculum included the civic literacy and organizing initiative.
Their previous instructor, Austin, informed us that the class took action by engaging in outreach, speaking with state lawmakers, and other activities. He also said that he later learned about Tuesday’s hearing.
He expressed his pride in his students for carrying on their activism outside of the classroom.
Austin told us that when he meets the youngsters tomorrow at school, he will ask them about their experience. Meanwhile, this year’s Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day is observed on Monday, October 9.