This is a template developed by INHCC for writing your City Council and/or rep about Indigenous Peoples’ Day in your town/city in NH. You can copy and paste the content into a word document. Adjust as needed.
Dear ____________ (make it personal)
I’m ________________ (explain who you are and what you are doing and maybe a sentence of why you care about substituting Columbus with Indigenous Peoples’ Day)
(For example: “I’ve started my school’s first reconciliation initiative at PEA in Exeter and our first focus is the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The treaty of Exeter, signed by Rev. John Wheelwright, shows that the lands of Exeter were indigenous lands that remain unceded. It is imperative that we recognize the history of the lands on which we live and operate.”)
I believe that the town of ________ (name of your town/city/state) should replace Columbus with Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the following reasons:
1. This requested change helps to ensure that we celebrate the Indigenous people of North America, instead of a single person who had no direct relation to North American history and even caused the genocide of populations he encountered in the Caribbean. This request helps to symbolically remove a reminder of the violent history of 500 years of colonial oppression at the hands of European explorers. According to Sebastian Braun, director of American Indian studies at Iowa State University, changing this holiday “was a reaction to a sense of ‘Why would Americans celebrate Columbus? From an indigenous perspective, he came to be seen as someone not very positive, who came to be seen as an initiator of oppression and the taking away of land and rights.’” (https://www.fastcompany.com/90415959/columbus-day-or-indigenous-peoples-day-the-fight-over-a-name-and-why-it-matters)
3. This day is symbolically important. This change will celebrate and acknowledge that Native populations have safeguarded and stewarded this land and waterways for generations. It can help to raise awareness of the rich history, culture, and traditions of the Indigenous peoples in New Hampshire and of the Americas. Adopting Indigenous Peoples’ Day will also create a state-wide educational opportunity to help us build a stronger community. (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/blogs/national-museum-american-indian/2019/10/11/indigenous-peoples-day-2019/)
4. Despite some individuals’ claims to the contrary, many Italian Americans support the change from Columbus to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and question why Italian American pride should be tied to Columbus and not some other important group of people person. In 2017, the then-president and CEO of the National Italian American Foundation, John M. Viola, said “…for many people, including some Italian-Americans, the celebration of Columbus is viewed as belittling the suffering of indigenous peoples at the hands of Europeans…I have never been one to blindly uphold any single figure as the representative of all things Italian-American, since all individuals are flawed, and all monuments represent just a snapshot of our history, now measured against 21st-century sensibilities.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/09/opinion/christopher-columbus-day-statue.html)
Further, the voyage of Columbus, who was born in the either Republic of Genoa (not yet Italy), “Spain” (not yet Spain), or Portugal, was funded by the Spanish crown (the Kingdom of Aragon and the Castilian nobility, Ferdinand and Isabella). So, in fact, this holiday celebrates the Spanish crown and Portugal more than Italian heritage.
5. The purpose of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not to offend Italian Americans, but rather to affirm the legacy of Indigenous Peoples. For example, former Berkley, CA mayor Lori Hancock recalls Italian Americans’ response to the notion of celebrating Indigenous people in the 1990s. She has said “We just had to keep reiterating that that was not the purpose… The purpose was to really affirm the incredible legacy of the indigenous people who were in the North American continent long before Columbus.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/04/learning/should-columbus-day-be-replaced-with-indigenous-peoples-day.html)
6. There is an international on-going effort to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. In 1977, several Indigenous leaders at the United Nations Conference in Geneva, moved to celebrate Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination by observing “October 12, the day of so-called discovery of America, as an International Day of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.” This was formally recognized in the United National Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in September 2007. See http://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2018/11/UNDRIP_E_web.pdf
7. This change is preceded by many examples in the U.S. and celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day will put us on the right side of history. See https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/map-making-indigenous-peoples-day-official-across-the-country-NRjFLa8jfESLKAl831N8aA
I’ve also attached a more in-depth policy brief from the perspective of a colleague regarding this change in her own town (https://indigenousnh.com/2020/10/02/indigenous-peoples-day-policy-brief/). I know it is a busy time for you, but I hope that you can consider my request. Please consider bringing this change to the town council to ensure an official discussion occurs.
Your name, address, and email ________________________