On Boston's First Indigenous Peoples Day, Some North Enders Take Issue

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BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Monday is the first Indigenous Peoples day in Boston, but some members of the city's Italian-American community complain a day usually dedicated to their own heritage has been done away with.

14 states and more than 130 local governments have chosen not to observe Columbus Day, many instead dedicating the second Monday in October to Native groups. After joining several Massachusetts communities in making that change last week, Acting Mayor Kim Janey tweeted a statement on the inaugural holiday, reading:

"On the first Indigenous Peoples Day, Boston is committed to recognizing Indigenous history, celebrating cultures, strengthening relationships, denouncing colonial past, and increasing dialogue with tribes to foster reconciliation and support for the rights of Indigenous people. Indigenous Peoples Day celebrates the rich cultural legacies of our Indigenous communities while also declaring Boston is ready to work with our neighbors to create a more just future."

But some Italian-Americans in Boston say the loss of Columbus Day is a blow to their community. Louis Strazzullo is chair of the North End Columbus Day Committee. He says the Acting Mayor overstepped her authority, and the City Charter doesn't allow acting mayors "to sign an executive order that is not deemed an emergency."

Strazullo says "to take from one culture and heritage and culture and give to another...they're saying 'well, now we don't care anymore about what the Italian Americans did, and we're going to give it to someone else."

The annual Columbus Day Parade in the North End was cancelled this year, but Strazullo says it was because of COVID and difficulty fundraising, not Acting Mayor Janey's declaration. Strazullo says he and the committee support Indigenous Peoples Day, and believe it should be on its own, separate day.

"Columbus Day is for the Italian Americans to celebrate what they did when they came over here, all our ancestors. It's more about the Italian American Heritage than celebrating the name Columbus."

But local indigenous advocates say the actions of early European colonizers are nothing to celebrate and keeping both holidays isn't acceptable. A coalition of Native groups marched to the State House over the weekend, calling for Governor Baker to drop Columbus Day as a State Holiday and recognize Indigenous Peoples Day. Speakers described the way Columbus treated indigenous people, selling natives into slavery.

"Its time that the Commonwealth recognizes indigenous people and gets rid of Columbus" Faires Gray with the Massachusett Tribe said. "Today we're here to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, but we're also here to say we're not accepting Columbus Day anymore. It has to go."

For the first time this year, President Biden issued a White House proclamation marking Indigenous Peoples Day—alongside a Columbus Day proclamation.

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