Boston will celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day instead of Columbus Day

On Monday, the city of Boston will officially celebrate Indigenous peoples instead of Christopher Columbus for the first time.

Acting Mayor Kim Janey signed an executive order this week declaring the second Monday of October to be Indigenous Peoples' Day and "to affirm the City's commitment to reconciliation and support for the rights of Indigenous peoples."

Indigenous people and activists have long called for America to end its homages to European colonialism.

“The people of the Massachusett Tribe have been a part of what is now called Boston for over 10,000 years,” said Elizabeth Solomon, of the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag, in a statement disseminated by the city of Boston. “For far too long, the Indigenous history of this place has been obscured, and frequently erased, by the histories, myths, and priorities of the dominant culture.

"We are happy to see the City of Boston take the important step of recognizing and celebrating Indigenous peoples in Boston, the Americas, and around the world."

In her order, Janey encouraged Bostonians to use the day to reflect on the "dispossession of the homeland of the Massachusett Tribe" and Indigenous peoples' enduring presence here.

Boston joins a growing number of cities and towns that are choosing to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day rather than Columbus Day, including Amherst, Brookline, Cambridge, Northampton and Somerville.

Janey, whose term will end after a new mayor is elected in November, encouraged future administrations to respect Indigenous rights and involve local tribal leaders in decisions.

Because of pandemic precautions, the Boston Marathon — typically held in April on Patriots' Day — was rescheduled for Monday, Oct. 11. After outcry from the Newton Indigenous Peoples' Day Committee that the marathon would be held on the holiday, the Boston Athletic Association said it would highlight Indigenous people who have participated in past marathons.

Last year, Indigenous people and their allies rallied in the Boston Common, calling for an end to the celebration of Christopher Columbus. Among their demands was also a request to change the state flag, which includes words and symbols that endorse white supremacy and disparage Indigenous people.

In January of this year, Massachusetts lawmakers agreed to create a commission to recommend a new seal and motto. The commission has met, but has not yet filed its report.


Headshot of Amy Gorel

Amy Gorel Senior Editor
Amy Gorel is a senior editor of digital news at WBUR.



More from WBUR

Listen Live