Andover will have a town-wide discussion on renaming Columbus Day to Indigenous Persons’ Day after the select board heard a presentation from the town’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion commission.

The commission wants to have a town-wide discussion about the name change and is aiming to bring a proposal for final approval to the next Town Meeting. The select board took no action Monday but laid a framework for approving the plan for the discussion at a future meeting.

“I think the community should have a larger discussion,” select board member Christian Huntress said. “And I think the community should have the discussion rather than the five of us making the decision.”

More than two dozen Massachusetts towns have already changed the name of Columbus Day, but those efforts have often led to controversy. Many Italian Americans mark the day as a celebration of their ancestry, while Indigenous Peoples’ argue Columbus’s landing in the Americas led to one of the largest genocides in human history.

Previously on Andover News: Andover Considers Columbus Day Name Change

“Full disclosure, I’m a Knight of Columbus, as are a lot of my brothers in the room who are here with us tonight – some even on the select board,” Jim Haller of the Andover Knights of Columbus Council 1078 said. “A lot of people think Christopher Columbus was not a good guy. And what we find is those who undermine that legacy do not understand that legacy.”

Haller said he “and a lot of my brother Knights” supported the proposal, “however, not to eliminate Columbus Day.” He suggested the select board choose a different date for Indigenous Persons’ Day, saying Baltimore had done something similar in 2016.

“As my daughter often says, ‘Why not both?'” Haller said.

The Commission had suggested having another day to recognize Italian Americans in Andover. But three of the four speakers who also spoke against the proposal echoed Haller’s suggestion to choose another day. Another member of the Knights of Columbus suggested August 9, which is World Indigenous Peoples’ Day. No other U.S. municipality has taken that step.

Last month, Laura Gregory had asked for the discussion to be put on select board’s agenda. In addition to renaming the holiday on the second Monday in October, DEI wants the select board to have a “community dialogue around this anticipated change.”

Legislature Considering Statewide Change

The debate could soon be moot. Massachusetts lawmakers are considering legislation changing the name of the holiday statewide. A Massachusetts advocacy group is also pushing for the change. President Joseph Biden declared last years’ holiday on Oct. 10, Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Those efforts, however, have often led to controversy. Many Italian Americans mark the day as a celebration of their ancestry. Indigenous Peoples’ however, note Columbus’s landing in the Americas led to one of the largest genocides in human history.

Columbus Day marks the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s landing in the Americas in 1492. It was first celebrated on Oct. 12, 1792 by Tammany Hall in New York. President Benjamin Harrison declared a one-time national celebration on the 400th anniversary of the landing in 1892 and following the lynching of 11 Italian Americans in New Orleans. Harrison’s proclamation was also seen as part of a wider effort to ease diplomatic tensions with Italy.

In 1934, Congress passed a statue calling on the President to annually proclaim Oct. 12 Columbus Day after a Knights of Columbus lobbying effort. Efforts to make it a permanent holiday stalled in 1941, when Italian and Italian Americans were interned and lost rights as “enemy aliens.” In 1966 the National Columbus Day Committee formed to lobby to make Columbus Day a federal holiday.

President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill in 1968 making it a federal holiday, beginning in 1971.

Photo licensed under Creative Commons: “Dominican-Republic – Santo Domingo: Christopher Columbus statue @ harbor” by Traveller-Reini is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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One thought on “Andover Begins Columbus Day Discussion”
  1. Really? People are still upset by this? It’s Columbus Day. Haven’t they realized taking down a few statues isn’t going to do anything?

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