Recognizing Indigenous People’s Day in New England


This resource serves to recognize the importance of changing the federal holiday Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day (IPD) and call for further action. In the United States, twelve states and Washington D.C., along with over 130 towns and cities, currently celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This change is made to honor, celebrate, and acknowledge the Indigenous Peoples who have stewarded this land and its resources for hundreds of generations. This change has been advocated for decades. In 1977, the United Nations Conference in Geneva first moved to celebrate the second Monday of October as an “International Day of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples of the Americas” in celebration of Indigenous sovereignty (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs). Today, the change helps to acknowledge the physical and cultural harm, genocide, and discrimination that Indigenous peoples have faced since the imperialist colonization of this land referred now to as America. In the spirit of social justice, equity, and equality, this is a change worth making.  

New Hampshire: While New Hampshire has not yet passed a bill to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, there are several school districts, towns, universities/colleges, and cities in the state that made this change. These efforts continue to be informed by New Hampshire tribal organizations’ continuous work, including the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People and the New Hampshire Commission for Native American Affairs. Our grassroots organization, Indigenous New Hampshire Collaborative Collective (INHCC), has supported efforts to pass House Bill 221, also titled “Renaming Columbus Day as Indigenous People’s Day,” to abolish Columbus Day and acknowledge Indigenous Peoples’ Day. In 2018, 2019, and 2020, despite growing support to pass HB 221, the state house failed to deliver a passing vote. We, among others, continue to advocate for this effort in order to acknowledge the genocide and harm caused by settler colonialism starting with Columbus, and honor Indigenous peoples and their demands for acknowledgement and reparations. 

  1. Concord, New Hampshire: The Concord School Board voted in October of 2020 to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day on their school calendar. Columbus Day has been removed from the updated 2020 Concord Calendar. (https://www.concordmonitor.com/Columbus-Day-becomes-Indigenous-Peoples-Day-for-Concord-schools-36638654)
  1. Dover, New Hampshire: In August of 2020, the Dover city council passed the vote to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day with a 7-1 majority. The city council stated the vote shows that the city “acknowledges that Dover is built upon the traditional and ancestral homelands and villages of the Indigenous Peoples of this region” (McMenemy 2020).  (https://www.fosters.com/news/20200827/dover-adopts-indigenous-peoplesrsquo-day)
  1. Durham, New Hampshire: In 2017, Durham established the celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in replacement of Columbus Day. Durham was the first community in New Hampshire to no longer celebrate Columbus Day whereas many other communities continue to celebrate Columbus Day alongside Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

(https://www.seacoastonline.com/news/20170919/durham-town-council-establishes-indigenous-peoples-day)

Since Fall 2019, the University of New Hampshire in Durham also recognizes and various student organizations celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day (e.g. https://www.facebook.com/events/257654788906712).

  1. Hopkinton, New Hampshire: Hopkington voted to change the holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in October of 2018 with a unanimous vote 5-0. In 2019, Columbus Day was officially replaced with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. (https://www.concordmonitor.com/NH-state-house-2019-bill-Indigenous-Peoples-Day-rename-Columbus-Day-22660425)
  1. Keene, New Hampshire: In February of 2020, the City of Keene City Council voted to approve a resolution “Relating to the Celebration of Indigenous People’s Day,” recognizing that “this area comprises in part the homelands of Indigenous Peoples including the Abenaki, their allies, and ancestors,” and that the holiday “will provide an opportunity for our community to recognize, learn about, honor, and stand in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples.” (https://ci.keene.nh.us/sites/default/files/2020-02/2020_02_27_FOP_Agenda_Packet_optimized.pdf

6. Nashua, New Hampshire: October 2020 replaced Columbus with Indigenous Peoples’ Day

7. *Newmarket, New Hampshire: https://www.newmarketnh.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif3536/f/minutes/council_minutes_09192018_approved.pdf . We are awaiting the official details and potential calendar changes.

8. *Exeter, New Hampshire: On Monday, October 5, 2020, the Select Board voted to celebrate October 12 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the Town of Exeter. We are waiting for official details.  

  1. *Oyster River Cooperative School District, New Hampshire: In September of 2018, the Oyster River School District, which serves the towns of Durham, Lee, and Madbury, adopted the celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. (https://www.fosters.com/news/20180831/oyster-river-schools-adopt-indigenous-peoples-day
  1. *Portsmouth, New Hampshire: On October 5, 2020, the Portsmouth City Council voted unanimously to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day alongside Columbus Day only in 2020. This motion was brought to the City Council by a group of Portsmouth High School students who appealed to the board to live up to their proclamation “to become ‘a racial justice municipality.’” There is still work to be done to ensure that IPD is celebrated on a regular basis instead and not alongside Columbus Day. (https://www.cityofportsmouth.com/city/press-releases/portsmouth-city-council-recognizes-indigenous-peoples-day-alongside-columbus#:~:text=The%20Council%20approved%20unanimously%20the,Peoples%20Day%20alongside%20Columbus%20Day.%E2%80%9D

Massachusetts: On a state level, Massachusetts has not passed a motion or bill to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, however, there are a select number of cities that have made the change in honoring the Indigenous significance and presence of the land on which their cities were built. 

  1. Amherst, Massachusetts: As of October 2019, Amherst celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day in replacement of Columbus Day on the second Monday of October. 
  1. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Cambridge City Council voted in 2016 to start celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day in replacement of Columbus Day, making it the first city in Massachusetts to make the change. 

(https://www.culturalsurvival.org/ipdayma#:~:text=In%202016%2C%20the%20Cambridge%20City,%2C%20MA%20and%20Northampton%2C%20MA.)

  1. Great Barrington, Massachusetts: In October 2019, the Great Barrington Select Board signed a proclamation to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Board member Kate Burke acknowledged that “This just felt like another way that we can push for social equality.” (https://www.berkshireeagle.com/great-barrington-to-replace-columbus-day-with-indigenous-peoples-day/article_c278b6a3-516e-560f-ad97-93208da38a1d.html)
  1. Northampton, Massachusetts: In 2016, Northampton wrote and passed a resolution to change the second Monday of October to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, in acknowledgment that the city is “built upon the ancestral homelands and villages of the Indigenous Peoples of this region without whom the building of the City would not have been possible…” (Northampton City Council 2016). (https://www.northamptonma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/6753/Resolution-Recognizing-the-Second-Monday-of-October-as-Indigenous-Peoples-Day?bidId=)
  1. Pittsfield, Massachusetts: In 2018, the Pittsfield School District replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. (https://www.wamc.org/post/after-months-debate-pittsfield-ma-schools-celebrate-first-indigenous-peoples-day)
  1. Salem, Massachusetts: In October 2020, the Salem City Council approved the celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day and announced a series of public programming in honor of the new holiday. (https://patch.com/massachusetts/salem/salem-unveils-first-slate-indigenous-peoples-day-events)
  1. Somerville, Massachusetts: In September of 2018, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone announced that Indigenous Peoples’ Day will replace the celebration of Columbus Day in recognition and honor of “native people who died following the European settlement of North America led by explorers like Christopher Columbus” (Gavin 2018). (https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2018/09/13/indigenous-peoples-day-columbus-day-somerville)

Maine:  In April 2019, the state of Maine officially replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. However, in December 2015, Belfast, Maine was the first city to have instated Indigenous Peoples’ Day in replacement of Columbus Day. (https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/26/politics/maine-indigenous-peoples-day-columbus-day/index.html) (https://bangordailynews.com/2015/12/17/news/belfast-council-renames-columbus-holiday-indigenous-peoples-day/)

Vermont: Former Vermont governor, Peter Shmulin, signed a 2016 proclamation to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The current governor, Phil Scott, has continued up to the most recent year, 2020. Columbus Day has been removed from the Vermont holiday calendar as a federal holiday. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/04/20/vermont-passes-bill-abolishing-columbus-day-favor-indigenous-peoples-day/)

Connecticut: In 2015, the Bridgeport School Board voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This is the only location in Connecticut to have removed Columbus Day from their calendar. (https://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Columbus-Day-becomes-Indigenous-People-Day-in-6570416.php

Rhode Island: No municipalities in Rhode Island have adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day yet.

Take Action:

This important issue is one that requires participation and advocacy in all towns, cities, educational institutions, and local organizations. If you agree on the importance of this change to better honor and acknowledge the Indigenous traditions and the significance of the land where many of our homes were built, email or call your local state representative or city/town council member and advocate for this change. Social reparations and social change for the betterment of our community does not happen in isolation and will persevere through the participation and advocacy of community members across the state and region. Here is a template you can use to raise this issue. Below are listed links to find and contact your state representatives! 

New Hampshire State Representatives 

Massachusetts State Representatives 

Connecticut State Representatives 

Rhode Island State Representatives

Appendix: States/cities/towns with verified calendar changes:

Hopkinton, NH

Keene, NH still has CD listed in their calendar (https://ci.keene.nh.us/our-city/city-holidays)

Durham, NH

Dover, NH (found on school district calendar as IPD)

Amherst, MA 

Cambridge, MA 

Great Barrington, MA

Northampton, MA 

Pittsfield, MA (does not have CD or IPD on holiday calendar)

Salem, MA

Somerville, MA (does not have CD or IPD on holiday calendar)

Bridgeport, CT removed CD from holiday calendar

State of Maine

Vermont: CD removed from holiday calendar