NEWBURYPORT – After a heated discussion, city council voted by 7-4 Monday to approve a resolution recognizing the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day.
The resolution recognizes that “Newburyport is built on the villages of the indigenous peoples of this region, including the Algonquins and the Pennacooks,” and that other cities and states across the country have recognized this day “in an effort to promote the truth, healing, reconciliation, reparation and justice recognizing the historical trauma and harm, acts of genocide and human rights violations of indigenous peoples of America.
It also allows the city to express support for Bill H.3191 and Senate Bill S.2027, which would change the holiday on the second Monday in October from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.
The preparatory work for the resolution, sponsored by Ward 3 Councilor Heather Shand, kicked off in October 2020 when students and faculty from the River Valley Charter School approached Mayor Donna Holaday with letters, calling for Columbus Day be renamed.
The City’s Alliance for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Commission on Human Rights and a First Religious Society group, Unitarian Universalist were also key players in advancing the resolution during of the last year.
Those who voted against the resolution on Monday were General Councilor Joseph Devlin, Ward 1 Councilor Sharif Zeid, Ward 5 Councilor James McCauley and Ward 6 Councilor Byron Lane.
Devlin provided several reasons for voting in opposition, but his main reason was that he had already voted against these types of resolutions because he believed they were “divisive” and somewhat beyond the purview of the government. advice. Columbus Day, for example, is a federal holiday and he thinks a majority of residents would prefer council to spend more time on other matters.
Through his own research, McCauley discovered that there was an International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly. He added that the day after Thanksgiving is Native American Heritage Day and November is Native American Heritage Month.
He said people should celebrate more these days and because they don’t he decided to pass this resolution on.
Zeid asked if there were enough voices joining this discussion. He acknowledged that many people might not feel comfortable bringing up the issue and, in the end, he didn’t think this resolution would create more unity.
General Counsel Afroz Khan has explained how uncomfortable it can be to talk about issues like this, but said it is necessary as an adviser to speak on behalf of those who have no voice.
Khan backed the resolution, saying she liked it to be educational and included local details such as the indigenous lands the city sits on.
Journalist Heather Alterisio can be reached at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.
Journalist Heather Alterisio can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.