SWAMPSCOTT — The town is looking to join 20 other Massachusetts municipalities in celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
The Select Board has recommended favorable action on a resolution calling for the recognition of this unofficial holiday, which will be voted on at the annual Town Meeting in May.
“This is a symbolic recognition that we have a town that was founded on land that was settled by Native Americans and it’s my hope that we can start with this resolution, but also, at some point, put a project in our capital plan to build a monument to the Native-American tribe that was indigenous to Swampscott,” said Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald.
This tribe, the Naumkeag, was partially nomadic and had seasonal homes throughout the present-day North Shore and beyond, according to Pioneer Village Salem. Fitzgerald said the Naumkeag tribe called Swampscott “the land of the red rocks.”
“When we know our history and we know where we came from, our lives are more valuable, more meaningful, more purposeful,” said Fitzgerald. “There’s a proclamation that’s in many ways symbolic, but it’s focused on human rights, diversity and remembering where we all came from as a society.”
Indigenous Peoples’ Day is celebrated in at least 20 Massachusetts towns and cities including neighboring Marblehead and Salem, according to Indigenous Peoples Day MA.
It occurs on Columbus Day, which is observed on the second Monday of October.
While for many, Columbus Day is a way of both honoring Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ landing in the Americas in 1492, and celebrating Italian-American heritage as a whole, the holiday has become controversial due to the brutal treatment of Native Americans during colonization, according to history.com.
Unofficial celebration of Columbus Day began in the United States in the early 18th century, but it did not become a federal holiday until 1937. Since the 1970s, many alternatives have been proposed, including Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which is now celebrated in many U.S. states and cities, according to history.com.
Fitzgerald spoke to this history, saying that it was important for the town to adopt the proposed proclamation.
“It’s also important that we recognize that there were atrocities that occurred as we settled the nation, and there’s a convenient amnesia about the brutal history of the founding of this country,” he said.
While Fitzgerald said he admires the Italian Americans that made “indelible contributions” to American democracy, recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day would serve as a reflection on the Native Americans who lived in the Americas “and had their worlds destroyed.”