Cambridge adding Indigenous translations on dozens of street signs

A kayak makes its way along Broad Canal on a summer day in Cambridge. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
A kayak makes its way along Broad Canal on a summer day in Cambridge. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

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We have another week of ideal PSL weather, though you may want to keep an umbrella and a windbreaker in your bag.

You can get NPR’s coverage of the latest developments in the Israel-Gaza war right here. But let’s start today’s newsletter with what’s happening here in Massachusetts:

Cambridge may have marked Indigenous Peoples’ Day a week ago, but the city is working to recognize local Native people in a more permanent and (literally) visible way. WBUR’s John Bender reports the city is putting up new street signs that translate street names into the language of the native Massachusett Tribe. The initial phase will install around 80 signs between First and Eighth streets in East Cambridge, according to Sage Carbone, who first proposed the idea. She says the project will help preserve Indigenous languages, as the city prepares to celebrate its 400th anniversary. “We need to make sure that we’re including all of the history,” Carbone said. “Too often, the history when we learn about it in Cambridge and Boston begins when Europeans first arrived — and that’s just not the case.”

  • Carbone says they’re aiming to install all the signs by next summer. The project is funded through Cambridge’s annual participatory budgeting system, which lets residents vote on how the city spends a limited pot of money.
  • What’s next: The initiative is focusing on these specific numerical streets first because they’re easily translatable. But Carbone hopes it inspires other Cambridge residents to ask for the signs in their own neighborhoods and that it “spark[s] curiosity about what the name of where you live now had been originally called.”
  • Fun fact: As GBH first noted, Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to be given a Native name (though many other states followed). The translation: “Great-hill-small-place.”

Building up: Street signs may not be the only thing changing in Cambridge. The City Council is expected to vote tonight on new zoning rules that would allow taller affordable housing buildings to be built in certain parts of Cambridge without additional permits. The proposal would let buildings rise up to 15 stories high in major squares like Harvard, Central and Porter Square, while allowing them up to 12 stories along major corridors like Mass. Ave and Broadway.

Heads up: Expect a vote this week on Massachusetts House’s new gun bill. Speaker Ron Mariano says the chamber will pass the bill this week, despite pushback by some of the state’s police chiefs.

  • What’s next: The Senate is crafting its own gun bill, and legislative leaders have hinted they probably won’t get anything to Gov. Maura Healey until sometime next year.

Sticking around: The humpback whale is staying on Massachusetts’ endangered species list — at least for now. Healey’s administration initially proposed removing the marine mammal this year, after a similar move by federal officials in 2016. But according to the Globe, officials withdrew the proposal this month.

  • No official reason was given, but the reversal comes amid concerns from conservationists about the recent spike in humpback strandings (despite the population’s long-term rebound). The state is planning to update their proposal with more information and submit it at a “later date.”

Remember, Red Line riders: There’s no service on the Ashmont branch or Mattapan trolley line for the next two weeks. But there are other public transportation alternatives. Late last week, the T announced the Route 18 bus will be free during the closure, in addition to shuttle buses and the Fairmount commuter rail line.

  • The City of Boston is also offering a “limited number” of free monthly Bluebikes passes to residents affected by the closure. Click this link for the sign up form.

P.S.— Our arts and culture team just announced this year’s Makers! The annual list celebrates 10 creatives of color making an impact on the Boston arts scene. Scroll through all 10 profiles here (or listen to today’s episode of The Common) to see photos and videos of their work, and hear about what makes this year’s class so deserving.


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Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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