Decolonizing the narrative about Indigenous people

By Holly Feola & Katie Peters – Opinions Editor and Co-Editor-in-Chief

Lasell’s Peace Pole, installed in 2013 for International Day of Peace, stands as a “symbol of the community’s dedication & commitment to peace.”
Photo by Katie Peters

For decades, the second Monday of every October in the United States has been reserved as a way to pay tribute to Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Bahamas. The holiday named after this Italian colonizer has since become a controversial subject. 

Many Indigenous Peoples’ groups have spoken up about what the European settlers put their ancestors through, and are pushing for the name to be changed to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Lasell has already made the change. Monday, October 12 marked Lasell’s second Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Their formal recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day symbolizes its support for decolonizing history. Centuries ago, the Boston area was home to the Pawtucket, Massachussett, Nipmuc and Wampanoag peoples.

While COVID-19 has made hosting events different from years past, The Donahue Institute still hosted a virtual presentation by Jordan Clark about decolonizing history relating to Indigenous people on October 1. Clark is the Director of Student Programs for Equity & Inclusion at the Cambridge School of Weston and is a member of the Wampanoag Tribe. 

“Decolonizing history is having us rethink how we learn and what we learn to incorporate other voices,” said Clark. “Part of the process is understanding where that system has failed individuals, and then grow from that and look for the new voices that are going to help build a better kind of worldview and understanding.”

Clark spoke on what has led to the misrepresentation of Indigenous People saying, “the existence of Indigenous people and Native Americans was an obstacle in the establishment of the United States and when you think about the history and of Indigenous people, it’s written by those who are trying to justify what happened.” As a result of this, Clark believes America gets “a singular narrative about a group of people in the stories and in the history that you learned.”

On Monday, October 12, Lasell students posted a video reacting to Christopher Columbus Was a Murderous Moron, a YouTube video by truTV and Adam Ruins Everything about misconceptions of Christopher Columbus. Student workers, seniors Ashaad Tillman and Alanis Perez-Rivera facilitated the project for the IC3.

When senior IC3 student worker  Nani Luciano Velez was asked about why Indigenous Peoples’ day is important she said, “I think Indigenous Peoples’ Day is important to celebrate because of the lives lost and the lives that were impacted by it.” In her opinion, changing the name of the day would not erase history and would stop the idolization of Columbus.

The discussion to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not specific to Lasell, but is a conversation happening all over the country. Indigenous Peoples’ Day MA is a group of organizers and citizens who are passionate about this change. Their Newton chapter has spent the last two years trying to convince the City Council to officially change the name of the holiday.

On October 8, the organization published filmed testimony to make their case for the Mayor, City Council and community to change the holiday name. Speakers included Taino Newton residents, a historian and others from Indigenous Peoples’ groups and organizations.

On November 2, the Newton City Council will vote on whether or not to change the name of the holiday in city and school departments. 

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