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Activists march in Boston for statewide Indigenous Peoples Day recognition

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Marchers took to the streets in Boston to demand that state lawmakers pass legislation that would formally establish Indigenous Peoples Day as a Massachusetts holiday.

The group, made up of Indigenous people and their allies, is looking for the new holiday, which is already recognized locally in some towns throughout the state, to replace Columbus Day on the second Monday of October.

“Indigenous Peoples Day is being declared in cities and towns across Massachusetts and around the country,” said Mahtowin Munro, co-leader of the United American Indians of New England and lead organizer for Indigenous Peoples Day Massachusetts.

“We call on the (Massachusetts) State Legislature to step up now and pass our statewide Indigenous Peoples Day bill and our other legislation currently before them,” she added on Saturday.

Other bills on the group’s agenda include those that would ban Native American team mascots, provide for an Indigenous curriculum in public schools, protect “sacred” Native American heritage, and improve educational outcomes for Indigenous students, Munro said.

According to the group, all five of those bills, including one that would have established the statewide holiday, failed to come out for a vote in the last legislative session. They plan to file the legislation again in January.

At least 20 Massachusetts cities and towns, including Boston, celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day. Last year, former Acting Mayor Kim Janey signed an executive order that essentially replaced Columbus Day with the new holiday, sparking controversy among the city’s Italian-American population.

Having this done on the statewide level is important to the organizers of Saturday’s rally, who say that it is “necessary to bring awareness to the true history of Columbus.”

Italian explorer Christopher Columbus has traditionally been celebrated for his contributions to the discovery and colonization of the Americas.

But he later became a controversial figure due to his reported treatment of native peoples, which historians say included violence, slavery and the introduction of debilitating diseases.

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