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Hundreds mark Indigenous Peoples Day

Angela Rowlings
Hundreds mark Indigenous Peoples Day
Jean-Luc Pierite of the Tuncia-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, who is president of the board of the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB), speaks in front of the Massachusetts State House during the Indigenous Peoples Day. PHOTO: ANGELA ROWLINGS

Hundreds of people came together in events over the long weekend in Boston and Newton to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day and to call on the governor and legislature to make it a statewide holiday, to improve education for Native students and celebrate Native history in public schools, and to ban Native mascots, among other demands.

While acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey last week signed an executive order to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, Columbus Day remains a state and federal holiday.

Hundreds of people make their way through Fanuil Hall Marketplace during the Indigenous Peoples Day March on Monday. Marchers called on Governor Charlie Baker to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day statewide, and also demanded that the name of Faneuil Hall be changed. PHOTO: ANGELA ROWLINGS

Indigenous peoples and supporters, including Italian Americans who support abolishing Columbus Day, gathered for blessings at Boston Common then marched to the State House and Faneuil Hall before rallying again at Christopher Columbus Park Saturday. With the statue of Columbus removed after it was vandalized last year, Taino children sat atop the base as members of the Indigenous community addressed the crowd.

“We do have people within the Italian American community that are saying you don’t do us honor by upholding Columbus. People know that he was a murderer, people know that he was a rapist, people know that he stole from Indigenous peoples,” said Jean-Luc Pierite, president of the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB) on Monday.

“These are things that have been happening on these lands, not just 500 years ago, but these are things that are happening today. So, we really need to talk about the history, and we need to talk about the effect on communities today,” he said.

At Alblemarle Field in Newton on Monday, organizer Chali’Naru Dones realized her dream of co-hosting the city’s first Indigenous Peoples Day Ceremonial Celebration after the Boston Athletic Association’s rescheduling of the Boston Marathon almost relegated the event to an undesired location. The BAA later apologized and honored two-time marathon champion Ellison “Tarzan” Brown of the Narragansett tribe and other Native runners. Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller joined an ancestors ceremony and greeted members of the community.

Indigenous people from many nations and local community members participated in the celebration, which included prayer, singing, dancing, children’s crafts, vendors with Native food such as Indian tacos and three sisters rice, and drumming by Eastern Sun Singers.

“I am so thrilled,” Dones said. “Our community, our people, we all united and made this ceremony really happen.”