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The Need for Indigenous People's Day

The 11th Suffolk district has been a site of human activity for 13,000 years. This land is the territory of the Massachusett and their neighbors the Wampanoag, and Nipmuc Peoples, who have stewarded this land for hundreds of generations.

Today, Boston is home to thousands of Indigenous people from across Turtle Island, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to live and work here.

Acknowledging that our Commonwealth has not lived up to its obligations to this land’s original inhabitants during the 400 years since the Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded, I am committed to the ideals that John Winthrop and the original members of the General Court seemed to quickly forget after they arrived here. Namely, we must not look only to ourselves and to our own needs, but to the needs of those around us, bearing each other’s burdens. This most especially now means looking to the needs of the indigenous community of the Commonwealth, redressing past injustices, instituting equity, and honoring the history which, on this land, begins in the indigenous community.

The early wars of the 1600s that the colonizers fought against the indigenous people of this state still ring in our ears and in our history books as reminders of how quickly the enmity born out of difference became a tool of oppression. The themes born in the early narratives of the colonizers of this land about King Philip's War still haunt us.

Too many of our state’s local high schools still see mascots modeled after unjust, and frankly racist, caricatures of indigenous peoples as appropriate. Our state flag and emblem show a sword hanging over the head of an indigenous person. Other than those first moments of conflict, we rarely teach indigenous history in our schools. Our recognition of the first European to subjugate indigenous peoples in this hemisphere with a statewide holiday in October white-washes a horrific moment in the history of this continent.

I applaud Mayor Janey for taking a first step in declaring the second Monday in October to be Indigenous People's Day in Boston, and call on Governor Baker to extend that declaration to the whole of the Commonwealth. I am excited to work with my colleagues in the Massachusetts House and Senate to make it a permanent reality.

I am honored to be able to join with many of those same colleagues in supporting the Indigenous Legislative Agenda Priorities. Thanks to many of you for reaching out to express your support of these important bills, together we can honor the rich history that is such an important part of who we are as a commonwealth and ensure equity for the peoples whose land we are all grateful to live and work on.

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