Protest outside City Hall fights for Indigenous People’s Day

Katherine Yearwood/ Journal Staff

Katherine Yearwood/ Journal Staff

Members of United American Indians of New England (UAINE) hosted a protest outside of Boston’s City Hall to have the holiday Christopher Columbus Day changed to “Indigenous People’s Day” in Boston, on Wednesday. Dozens, including Suffolk students, showed up to the event to show their support and speak out against the nation honoring Columbus.

“I am here because I believe that Christopher Columbus committed genocide and I believe that it is unethical for our country to celebrate a murderer, said Suffolk junior and Sociology major Maya Smith, who came to the protest with fellow  students from her Urban Schooling class. “So, I think that we need to learn more about indigenous and native communities and really take responsibility for how we’re oppressing these communities by not knowing and just going along and celebrating columbus day.”

Many of the protestors carried signs reading things such as “Stop celebrating genocide, start celebrating Indigenous People’s Day” and “We live on Indigenous land.”

“That rally showed that there are people that no matter where they come from, no matter what socioeconomic or ethnic background that they really want to see the history changed,” said Moonanum James, Co-founder of United American Indians of New England, in an interview with The Suffolk Journal.

While the protest was to have the holiday changed, there were many more elements to the protest than that, for it was also to help spread awareness.

“Indian People have been here for 12,000 years in this very area,” said John Peters, head of Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs, when speaking to the crowd during the protest. “Many policies have been developed right here that have actually decimated the Native population here in this area.”

It was not until 1968 that Native Americans gained the right to free speech, to a jury, and protection from unreasonable search and seizure, according to

Katherine Yearwood/ Journal Staff
Katherine Yearwood/ Journal Staff

Throughout the event, eight different people spoke to the crowd, some even sang. They raised their voices as they passionately condemned Columbus Day and stood in solidarity with the supporters of Indigenous Peoples day. Each time, members of the crowd would cheer and applaud in solidarity with the speaker and in agreement in what it was they were saying.

“The idea that Christopher Columbus is some sort of hero is an embarrassment to me as an Italian American,” said Cultural Survival member, Danielle DeLuca. “The fact that he is celebrated as a hero instead of a slave trader, a murderer, a colonizer is just a result of the harmful pathology that we learn in school about how he discovered America.”

Co- founder of UAINE Mahtowin Munro was one of the main speakers at the event.

“I bet every single native person who’s standing here right now has had somebody say to them ‘I didn’t know there were Indians left anymore up here’ or ‘I thought you all were extinct,’” said Munro.

Munro went on to say that statements such as these, show that many people in the United States are not aware of Native Americans as a part of modern society, so having Columbus Day changed to Indigenous peoples day will bring about more consciousness of Indigenous people.

One of the first things done at the protest was that a moment of silence was held for Native women, children and “two spirit people”. In the U.S., American Indian women are 10 times more likely to be murdered than other Americans and are raped or sexually assaulted more than four times the national average, according to an article in the New York Times.

In short, the term two spirit, is a Native American term that is, in short, used to describe a person who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, but also identifies as Native American as well. There are many different Native American tribes and cultures, but the term two spirit is somewhat of a universal Native American term for those who identify in the LGBTQ+ community and represents both masculinity and femininity, according to  

“This is a huge problem, not only in Canada, not only in the U.S., not only in Mexico, throughout the Americans that our women and our girls and our two spirit people are subject to the most extreme form of violence – just as our land is subject to the most extreme form of violence,” said Munro.

In an interview with The Suffolk Journal, protester Wayze Dunn Roundtree, participated in the rally “to change the day or mourning to the day of healing; a lot of people celebrate mass murders, genocide, essentially the killing of men, women, babies and pregnant women,” she said.

By celebrating Columbus Day, people are mourning the death of a someone responsible for the murders that took place under Columbus’ control and celebrating his legacy. However, the day of healing focuses on taking power back from those in power and saying that you don’t deserve this day, it belongs to us, according to Roundtree.  

“When you celebrate a person like that you’re celebrating and you’re mourning their death and you’re celebrating the person who was in control of all those murders, but the day of healing is taking that power back and saying you don’t deserve this day it belongs to us.”