Westford may vote on Columbus Day renaming to honor natives

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WESTFORD — Voters can decide to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day, following a recommendation from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

The Select Board voted unanimously on March 22 to place a question on the ballot for the September 6 primary election.

First, council will confer with the city attorney on the language of the ballot issue.

The council also hopes that the September 6 date will allow residents to get along with each other.

Opposition, alternatives

During the meeting, two residents spoke.

Cathy Creed said: “I’m opposed to Columbus Day being turned into Indigenous Peoples Day. I actually find it a bit divisive…I don’t like to see a group of people opposing a other.”

Creed referred to the day as a traditional holiday for many Italian Americans. “Italian Americans have been mistreated,” said Creed, who suggested August 9, the International Day of Indigenous Peoples.

Creed said a separate day to honor indigenous peoples should focus on indigenous communities who first colonized the region.

Focus on the story

Meredith Kelly said: “I’m also opposed, but for a slightly different reason.” Kelly said the city should research Indigenous communities in the area, using resources such as the Historical Commission and the Westford Museum.

“If we want to do it, we should do it based on the local people in the area,” Kelly said. “Once we find the real story, we can choose the most appropriate day.”

Kelly suggested the third Friday in November is Native American Heritage Day. “Let’s honor this day with their names in particular,” Kelly said.

Voters at the 2020 Fall Town Hall voted down a proposal to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, followed by a successful motion to refer the matter to the Diversity, Equity and Community Committee. ‘inclusion.

Reject genocide, harm

Committee co-chair Eric Barber-Mingo said, “I think the [committee’s] The approach to celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day is based on an empathetic recognition of a different effect on history.

Barber-Mingo said: “I think it’s important, and the committee thinks it’s important, that Westford takes a perspective on this issue that recognizes that there are two sides to any historical effect that we can consider .”

Barber-Mingo added, “It’s not a rejection of Italian-American culture…it’s in no way a rejection of any culture that’s out there.”

Renaming the holiday instead rejects genocide, discrimination and other harmful connotations, according to Barber-Mingo, who attached themselves to the name of Columbus and other explorers.

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Looking for voices, points of view

Board Chair Andrea Peraner-Sweet offered to put the issue to the residents with a ballot question. “Making this a voting matter … makes it even more inclusive than bringing it to the town meeting, where traditionally we’ve had 200, 300, maybe 400 people.”

Placing a question on the Sept. 6 ballot will give residents time to learn more and hear others’ perspectives, Peraner-Sweet said.

City Manager Jodi Ross said ballots for the upcoming May 3 municipal election have already been printed, making the September 6 ballot a more logical choice.

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