Resolution to establish Indigenous Peoples Day in Brookline

Petitioner: Patricia Connors, TMM3, Cornelia van der Ziel, TMM15, Raquel Halsey, Vishni Samaraweera

Speicial Town Meeting, November 2017

As we write this, there is increasing awareness about the pain and damage caused by symbols such as confederate flags and statues, attention should also be paid to the longstanding request of many Native people to abolish the Columbus Day holiday, which to them is a celebration of the deaths of millions of their people, and instead declare Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday in October in order to bring more awareness to the history and continued presence of Native people here in the US.

The "Whereas clauses" provide an explanation of this warrant article. Here is some additional relevant information:

More details about Columbus

In this Resolution, we did not set forth some of the more gruesome actions of Columbus and his men, including:
* Widespread rape and enslavement of Indigenous women and girls. In addition to putting the Natives to work as slaves in his gold mines, Columbus also sold sex slaves as young as 9 to his men. Columbus and his men also raided villages for sex and sport.
* In the year 1500, Columbus wrote: "A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand."
* Several accounts of cruelty and murder include Spaniards testing the sharpness of blades on Native people by cutting them in half, beheading them in contests and throwing Natives into vats of boiling soap. There are also accounts of suckling infants being lifted from their mother's breasts by Spaniards, only to be dashed headfirst into large rocks.
* Bartolome De Las Casas, a former slave owner who became Bishop of Chiapas and repented his previous actions, described these exploits. "Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel," he wrote. "My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write."
* Columbus forced the Native Arawak or Taino people to work in gold mines until exhaustion. Those who opposed were beheaded or had their ears cut off.
* In the province of Cibao all persons over 14 had to supply at least a thimble of gold dust every three months and were given copper necklaces as proof of their compliance. Those who did not fulfill their obligation had their hands cut off, which were tied around their necks while they bled to death - some 10,000 died handless.
* The Spanish used dogs against the Indigenous people. These dogs wore armor and had been fed human flesh. Live babies were also fed to these war dogs as sport, sometimes in front of horrified parents. There was also a practice known as the monteria infernal, the infernal chase, or manhunt, in which Indians were hunted by war-dogs.

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Official Text of the Article



WHEREAS, Columbus Day has been celebrated unofficially since the early 18th century, and was officially made a federal holiday in 1937 to be celebrated on the second Monday of October, with M.G.L. Part I, Title I, chapter 4, section 7, clause 18 setting aside the second Monday of October as a Massachusetts state holiday, and M.G.L. Part I, Title II, chapter 6, section 12V providing that the Governor declare that day to be Columbus Day; and

WHEREAS, Columbus Day commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in the Americas specifically on the Caribbean islands of The Bahamas on October 12, 1492 and, later, on Hispaniola (present-day countries of the Dominican Republic and Haiti); and

WHEREAS, the first voyage of Columbus to the Americas initiated the transatlantic slave trade, journal entries from Columbus show his desire to enslave the Indigenous populations of the Caribbean, and he subsequently imprisoned and transported many hundreds of people to this end; and

WHEREAS, Columbus' second voyage of 1493 was one of conquest, wherein seventeen ships were led by him to the New World, and his governorship of the Caribbean instituted systematic policies of slavery and extermination of Indigenous populations, especially the Taino/Arawak people whose population was reduced from approximately 8 million to 100,000 during Columbus' reign, being further reduced by the continuation of his policies until near-extinction in 1542; and

WHEREAS, the example of the Taino/Arawak people is merely indicative of the policies of Columbus and his men, and all told some historians estimate that more than 15 million Indigenous persons were exterminated in the Caribbean Basin alone; and

WHEREAS, though the introduction of European diseases may account for some of these deaths, starvation and overt extermination policies were mostly to blame, and thus these atrocities cannot be reasonably attributed to forces outside of the control of European colonialists; and

WHEREAS, the devastation of Indigenous populations would lead to the enslavement of at least 10 - 12 million African people, and the profound effects of the transatlantic slave trade and African diaspora continue to be felt to the present day; and

WHEREAS, the cultures of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas are worthy of being promoted, their history is rich, diverse, and worthy of celebration, and the actions and policies of European colonizers of the Americas actively destroyed and suppressed parts of those cultures; and

WHEREAS, Indigenous Peoples of the lands that would later become known as the Americas have occupied these lands since time immemorial; and

WHEREAS, the Town of Brookline, Massachusetts (the "Town") has a history of opposing racism towards Indigenous Peoples in the United States, this racism serving to perpetuate high rates of Indigenous poverty and leading to inequities in health, education, and housing; and

WHEREAS, the Town wishes to honor our nation's Indigenous roots, history and contributions; and

WHEREAS, the State of Alaska and other localities including Seattle WA, Cambridge MA, Denver CO, Portland OR, Berkeley CA, and Albuquerque NM have adopted Indigenous Peoples Day as a countercelebration to Columbus Day, to promote Indigenous cultures and commemorate the history of Indigenous Peoples; and

WHEREAS, Indigenous Peoples Day was first proposed in 1977 by a delegation of Native Nations to the United Nations-sponsored International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas; and

WHEREAS, in 1990, representatives from 120 Indigenous nations at the First Continental Conference on 500 Years of Indian Resistance unanimously passed a resolution to transform Columbus Day into an occasion to strengthen the process of continental unity and struggle towards liberation, and thereby use the occasion to reveal a more accurate historical record; and

WHEREAS, Indigenous Peoples of the Americas have contributed to the world in countless ways, and continue to do so. These contributions are too numerous to set forth here, but include:

* During World War I and II, Choctaw, Cherokee, Navajo and other Indigenous code talkers played a key role in US communications, displaying bravery and intelligence as they sent signals based on their languages that the German and Japanese were unable to decipher. Their actions are credited with saving thousands of US and Allies' lives.

* Agricultural and culinary techniques for tomatoes, pumpkins, potatoes, maize, cacao, many varieties of beans and much more, including the development of non-edible plants such as cotton, tobacco, and rubber.

* Medical advances using plants, such as using Vitamin C-based foods to avoid scurvy, discovering the medical use for quinine, and discovering the medical uses of willow bark (the basis for aspirin).

* The Maya of Mexico appear to have been the first to use the zero in mathematics.

* Indigenous government systems in North America, particularly that of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy), served as models of federated representative government for the United States, although the US excluded some key components such as the leadership role of women in the Haudenosaunee systems.

* Internationally known Indigenous people from the US have included Massasoit, Sacagawea, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Geronimo, Pontiac, Tecumseh, Sealth (Seattle), Wilma Mankiller, Diane Humetewa, Dave Archambault, Winona LaDuke and many more. Olympic athletes have included Jim Thorpe and Billy Mills. Prominent modern Indigenous artists include writers Louise Erdrich and Sherman Alexie; the prima ballerina Maria Tallchief; actors such as Irene Bedard, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, and Adam Beach; musicians John Trudell, Joanne Shenandoah, Carlos Nakai and Robbie Robertson; and artists Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, RC Gorman and Fritz Scholder.


1. The Board of Selectmen to establish that the second Monday of October henceforth be commemorated as Indigenous Peoples Day in Brookline, in recognition of the position of Indigenous Peoples as native to these lands, and the suffering they faced during and after the European conquest,

2. The people of Brookline to observe Indigenous Peoples Day by reflecting upon the dispossession of the homelands and villages of the Massachusett people of this region, without which the building of the Town would not have been possible, and to celebrate the survival of Indigenous Peoples against all odds, as well as the thriving cultures and values that Indigenous Peoples have brought and continue to bring to our Town and the wider community,

3. The Board of Selectmen to appoint an Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration Committee to develop and implement the Town's commemoration of Indigenous Peoples Day. This Board or its designee shall invite representation on the Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration Committee from Town citizens, schools, non-profit organizations, businesses and its Commission for Diversity, Inclusion & Community Relations as well as the North American Indian Center of Boston, United American Indians of New England, Cultural Survival and, with an emphasis on obtaining as much Indigenous representation as possible,

4. The Board of Selectmen or its designee to assist the Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration Committee with identifying and obtaining possible funding and resources necessary for the commemoration of Indigenous Peoples Day in the Town,

5. The Public Schools of Brookline to observe this day, with appropriate exercises and instruction in the schools around the time of Indigenous Peoples Day, to the end that the culture, history and diversity of Indigenous Peoples be celebrated and perpetuated,

6. The Board of Selectmen to encourage businesses, organizations, and public institutions to recognize and observe Indigenous Peoples Day, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Town Clerk shall ensure that the Massachusetts Commission of Indian Affairs, North American Indian Center of Boston,, United American Indians of New England, Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness, the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribal Council, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), the Nipmuc Nation Tribal Council (including the Hassanamisco and Natick), the Assonet Band of Wampanoags, the Chappaquiddick Wampanoags, the Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuc, the Pocasset Wampanoag, the Ponkapoag, and the Seaconke Wampanoag, all of which include descendants of those people indigenous to Massachusetts, as well as the Brookline School Committee and Brookline TAB, receive a suitably engrossed copy of this Resolution…