Efforts underway to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day
AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - The public spoke out at the State House on Tuesday on legislation to change the name of the state Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Many of those who spoke included sixth graders from Amherst made their way to the Boston to testify.
The renaming of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day across the commonwealth is a continued conversation.
“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.”
A crowd of people in purple sat at the State House in support of the bill, including three sixth graders from Fort River Elementary School in Amherst.
“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.
That is why they’re calling for change.
“It feels like it’s unfair to all the indigenous people ,” said Elo Schwabel, a student at Fort River Elementary School.
They told Western Mass News that the idea stems from a class assignment from last school year. The civic literacy and organizing project was part of the district’s language arts curriculum.
“It starts with students writing about things they would like to see changed in the world and over the course of a couple of weeks, the students work together to determine something they think they can work together on,” said Fort River Elementary School fifth grader Tim Austin.
Austin was their teacher last year and he told us the class took action through outreach, talking to state legislators, and more, and then he learned about Tuesday’s hearing.
“I was just able to go down the hall and talk to their teachers and spend a couple minutes with them giving them the good news. The three students took it upon themselves to recruit a parent to drive them,” Austin added.
He said he’s proud of his students for continuing to take action beyond the classroom.
“They’re there really representing their whole class and everybody who signed the petition that they created in support of this, so I’m very excited to see them and hear how today went,” Austin explained.
Austin assured us he will ask the students about their experience when he sees them in school tomorrow. Meantime, Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day falls on Monday, October 9 this year.
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