O P I N I O N
STAND UP. SPEAK UP. IT’S YOUR TURN
During the Public Comments section of the Town Council meeting on February 6, 2017, Durham resident Neil Ferris spoke about a movement underway to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. He said the New Hampshire State Legislature should join Vermont in this effort, and could use some nudging on this from Durham. He asked that this be placed on the Council’s agenda in the near future.
During the Town Council and Administrator roundtable discussion at the Town Council meeting on April 17, 2017, Councilor Wayne Burton noted Mr. Ferris’ earlier request and suggested that Administrator Selig bring the request to the Durham Human Rights Commission (HRC) for discussion and then come back to the Council on whether the commission believed this was a viable idea.
This item was placed on the HRC’s meeting agenda for June 7, 2017 and Mr. Ferris was in attendance. Mr. Ferris said his request was for Durham to replace Columbus Day with an Indigenous Peoples’ Day and also petition the State of New Hampshire to do the same. He felt that if enough communities in New Hampshire were to do this, then the state may be more inclined to follow suit. He noted that efforts should be made to encourage people to become educated about Native Americans and America’s real history and anything that can be done toward this type of effort should be embraced.
The commission continued its consideration of Mr. Ferris’ request at its meeting on July 26, 2017. Based on the discussion held at that meeting, Administrator Selig said he had given additional thought to other possible solutions besides replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. He offered an alternate name: “The Age of Exploration and Indigenous Peoples’ Day”, that would celebrate both the age of European exploration and the cultures and values of Indigenous Peoples, and to reflect upon the historical offenses against and ongoing struggles of indigenous people. The group discussed this notion further and consensus was to move it forward to the Town Council for its consideration.
The HRC met again on September 6, 2017 and reviewed and discussed a draft resolution introduced by Administrator Selig that would designate the second Monday in October as “The Age of Exploration and Indigenous Peoples’ Day” in Durham. Some amended language was offered by members of the group and this language has been incorporated into a draft resolution for the Council’s review and consideration on Monday evening, September 11, 2017, at the Town Council meeting.
Durham Town Manager Todd Selig stated, “After much consideration and reflection regarding the discovery of the Americas by Europeans, I have come to support this resolution to designate the 2nd Monday in October as “The Age of Exploration and Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” Not only is it appropriate to our local history, but also to recognize and value indigenous people everywhere. The double naming of this day will serve to encourage people to learn more about the legacy of Christopher Columbus and the “Doctrine of Discovery,” while also recognizing the devastating affects of colonialism on indigenous peoples.”
To our knowledge, Durham would be the first community in New Hampshire to establish the 2nd Monday in October as a day that recognizes Indigenous Peoples in addition to European exploration in the Americas. A growing number of states and communities have taken such as step in recent years to include Los Angeles, Vermont, Denver, Phoenix, Seattle, Minneapolis, Albuquerque, and Bangor.
The Town Council meeting begins at 7 p.m. and is held at the Durham Town Hall, 8 Newmarket Road, Durham, NH.