On Oct. 7, over 200 Indigenous activists and their allies gathered on Boston Common to demand that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts abolish Columbus Day and immediately designate the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day.
This action continued the Indigenous-led movement to end the racist cult glorifying Christopher Columbus, a Genoese mercenary backed by Spanish monarchs and mercantile investors. He commanded the 1492 voyage to the Caribbean that initiated the transatlantic slave trade and began the ongoing settler-colonial genocide of Indigenous peoples.
The Indigenous-led coalition that organized Saturday’s rally included United American Indians of New England (UAINE), the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB), Cultural Survival, the New Democracy Coalition, Workers World Party-Boston and Italian Americans for Indigenous Peoples Day.
As Mahtowin Munro, co-leader of UAINE, and other speakers at the Common explained, Indigenous Peoples Day honors the resilience, survival, cultures, histories and resistance of Indigenous peoples. Munro also spoke about the need for worldwide solidarity with Indigenous nations in their resistance to ongoing genocide and colonialism, including the struggle of the Palestinian people for liberation from the Zionist regime of Israel.
Munro stressed that the only ultimate solution to the ongoing human and environmental catastrophes caused by capitalism and settler-colonialism is the centering of Indigenous knowledge and the full return of stolen lands and sovereignty to Indigenous nations.
Munro also raised Jacob Johns for the crowd’s thoughts and solidarity. Johns was shot on Sept. 28 by a provocateur while trying to protect a peaceful gathering of The Red Nation in Tewa Territory (Española, New Mexico), who were celebrating a postponement of the reinstallation of a Juan de Oñate statue. The statue was previously removed from Alcalde, New Mexico, on June 15, 2020. (See The Red Nation’s Sept. 30 press release on workers.org.)
From Boston Common, demonstrators marched to the Massachusetts State House and took over the entrance. Jean-Luc Pierite, president of NAICOB and a citizen of the Tunica-Biloxi Nation, demanded that the legislature immediately pass the Indigenous Peoples Day bill, which would replace Columbus Day statewide.
Pierite warned lawmakers: “Don’t try any semantics with me. Don’t try any tricks. Don’t say I can do this day on Native American Day or Native American Heritage Month. I’m not just talking about Native Americans … I’m talking about all the people who have occupying forces on their lands. Free the lands! Free the people! Indigenous Peoples Day now!”
Pierite also urged passage of bills that would ban racist school mascots; incorporate Indigenous history and knowledge into Massachusetts public schools; establish a commission to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for Native children in the Commonwealth; and protect sacred Indigenous funerary objects and cultural artifacts.
A large delegation from the Indigenous Students Organization at Tufts University and Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine, wearing keffiyehs and waving a Palestinian flag, helped lead the march through Boston’s downtown shopping district. Thousands of tourists and traffic came to a halt, some cheering and honking for the marchers’ demand: “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!”
Chanting “City by city, town by town, we’re gonna take Columbus down,” they headed to tourist trap Faneuil Hall, which, despite promises made by city officials, still bears the name of Peter Faneuil, a Boston colonial merchant who trafficked enslaved people. Demonstrators demanded the name be changed to honor the history of oppression and struggle of the Black community in Boston.
In his closing remarks, Pierite urged demonstrators to continue their support for the campaign for Indigenous Peoples Day, and stressed the need for continued solidarity with Indigenous nations around the world in their struggles to dismantle settler colonialism and win full self-determination and sovereignty.