Letter To The Editor: Designate At Least One Day To Honor Indigenous Peoples

To the editor:

In third grade, my Winn Brook class went on a field trip to Plymouth Plantation. Furious that I got separated from my best friend, I stomped through the English village where costumed colonists wished us a “Good morrow.” At the Wampanoag Homesite, we watched Indigenous women dressed in deerskins cooking next to a bark-covered wetu (house). Exhausted, I breathed in the warm smokey air, recalling my preschool Thanksgiving crafts: the black Pilgrim hat and the colorful turkey shaped like my little hand. My teacher taught us that the Native people had saved the Pilgrims from starvation and celebrated the first Thanksgiving together.  

Four years later, I attended the first of many powwows – a large gathering of Indigenous people dancing, singing, and celebrating traditions – organized by the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness. At Claudia Fox Tree’s workshops, my re-education about American history began. I learned about famous Indigenous people and contemporary issues like the struggle against denigrating Native mascots. As I watched Aquayah Peters in her vibrant jingle dress and the Edmond brothers’ joyful dance, I understood that the Wampanoags at Plymouth were not actors in historic costumes or relics of the past. They were living on their own homelands, preserving their way of life. 

For me, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is about the past and the present. It is an opportunity to acknowledge that Belmont is located in the homelands of the Massachusett and the Pawtucket. Reminders of Indigenous presence are everywhere: place names like Pequossette Park on Trapelo Road, Native artifacts discovered near School and Grove Streets, and a burial mound on land bordering Pleasant Street. Indigenous narratives were mainly absent from my Belmont education. On my own, I read about the devastating violence of colonial history like the Pequot massacre of 1637 celebrated at the first officially proclaimed Thanksgiving, and ongoing harms to Indigenous communities. The poet Mary Ruefle observes: “[L]istening is a kind of knowledge, or as close as one can come.” The students of Belmont deserve to hear truthful historical narratives.

We can also celebrate the knowledge of Indigenous peoples who have lived in harmony with the natural world for centuries and are at the forefront of climate justice. Belmont readers can discuss books by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Dina Gilio-Whitaker, Terese Marie Mailhot, and Tommy Orange. We can choose to honor Indigenous people on at least one designated day.

Natalia Freeze, Leicester Road

What’s Open, Closed On Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day In Belmont

Photo: “Portrait of a Man, Said to be Christopher Columbus” by
Sebastiano del Piombo (1519) credit: Wikimedia Commons

Columbus Day, which is celebrated annually on the second Monday of October, is a federal and state holiday that commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas in 1492. It is also a day to honor the contributions of Italian-Americans to the American experience.

Increasingly, communities are honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a holiday celebrating Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures in opposition to the celebration of Columbus Day.

Curb side trash and recycling pickup will be delayed by one day due to the holiday.

What’s Closed:

  • Belmont Town offices and Belmont Light are closed.
  • US Postal Service will not deliver mail and post offices are closed.
  • Most banks; although some branches will be open in some supermarkets.

What’s Opened:

  • Retail stores
  • Coffee shops
  • Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Supermarkets and convenience stores
  • Establishments that sell beer and wine are also allowed to be open.

MBTA: Operating on a Sunday schedule. See www.mbta.com for details.

Opinion: It’s Time To Move On From Columbus

Photo: Welcoming Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Some have called it a “white supremacist’s holiday.” For others, it’s a reminder of the atrocities and genocide that took place on this land about 500 years ago. Let us stop celebrating violence, and move to celebrate the diverse and culturally rich native peoples by renaming the holiday on the second Monday of October to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Follow this link to our Change.org petition.

On the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival to the Americas, Berkeley, California, declared Oct. 12 to be a “Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People.” As such, Berkeley officially became the first municipality to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Since then, at least 10 states and 130 cities have made the transition as well. Our neighbors in Cambridge, Brookline, Somerville, and Marblehead have moved forward. If we want Belmont to live up to its promises of inclusivity and progressiveness, it only makes sense that we follow the footsteps of our neighbors and rename the holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

For more than 500 years, indigenous peoples have been oppressed by European settlers. This began with Columbus. Upon his arrival to the Bahamas – he never stepped foot on the continental US – Columbus infringed on the territory of millions of indigenous people, especially that of the Taino people, whom he shortly enslaved. Hundreds were sent back to Spain while thousands of others were forced to scavenge the land for gold. He mutilated the Tainos who didn’t fulfill their quota of gold. He sent dismembered Taino bodies through the streets to assert his superiority. Michele de Cuneo, one of Columbus’ royal companions, wrote in his journal about how Columbus raped and tortured a Taino woman. It is much unsaid about what Columbus did to the Taino people, but these few examples give the essence of his disgusting treatment of them. 

We would also add that his actions didn’t impact only the Taino people. His arrival to the Americas began the Columbian Exchange, which brought the irreversible impact of diseases like smallpox to the indigenous people. An estimated 90 percent of Aboriginal Americans died of smallpox. Altogether, his actions set into motion what would become a mass genocide of the indigenous people of the Americas. 

Early on, students learn of Columbus as a great hero and the discoverer of America; the reason for where we are today. But celebrating him as a hero misses the point. He did not discover the Americas; he merely stole them. It also leaves out a far more important half of the story. Celebrating him serves as a reminder of how he took away the land and lives of countless native people. And while it is important to acknowledge his mistreatment of natives, we must not honor violence. By celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we can honor the traditions and culture of the indigenous peoples of America, instead of a merciless outsider. 

After a year of consideration and planning, we have launched a town-wide petition to rename the holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We ask that you share it with anybody who supports the change so that our town government officials can see the interest our community has in taking such an action.

Alex Fick

Lora Ovcharova

Helping Refugees And The Hungry Part Of 9th Annual Belmont Serves


The 9th annual Belmont Serves Day of Community Service will be held on Monday, Oct. 9,  the Columbus Day holiday. Individuals and families will be able to select a project at the start of the day, complete the entire project in one morning of work, and then come together for some pizza and Rancatore’s ice cream to celebrate a job well done.

The headquarters for Belmont Serves is First Church Unitarian Universalist, 404 Concord Ave., 

Belmont Serves is a family-friendly event, where all members of the Belmont community are invited to work together for one morning to make our town a better place for all. You can help make a real difference in our town, have some fun, and meet others who share a willingness to serve the community.

This year’s schedule of events:

8:30 a.m.   All volunteers sign-in at First Church UU
9 a.m.   Service projects begin
Noon   Service projects end
Noon   Pizza and ice cream celebration at First Church UU

This year, service projects include:

  • Door-to-door food drive for the Belmont Food Pantry
  • Conservation projects at Lone Tree Hill (former McLean Hospital property)
  • Clay Pit Pond clean-up and improvements
  • Sorting clothes at Plymouth Church to be donated to refugees.

Door-to-door collection for the Belmont Food Pantry— Teams of volunteers will be assigned to specific routes, collecting bags of groceries left at doorsteps for delivery to the Belmont Food Pantry. These grocery bags are distributed door-to-door throughout the town during the week before Belmont Serves day. Last year, we filled the food pantry with over 1,800 bags of groceries. This year we hope to do even better!

Conservation projects at Lone Tree Hill — You can help with pruning, parking lot maintenance and invasive vegetation removal at Lone Tree Hill (former McLean Property) conservation lands. Wear long shelves and long pants to avoid poison ivy. We will supply the tools, or bring clippers or loppers.

Clay Pit Pond clean-up: Volunteers will work on pruning existing shrubs, cutting/removing invasives, and picking up trash and debris.

Sorting donated clothes for refugees: Please help us sort the donated winter clothing at Plymouth Congregational Church. The clothing will be distributed to recently arrived refugees in the New England area. New donations will NOT be accepted on the day of Belmont Serves. If you would like to donate new or gently worn winter clothes for adults and children, you can bring them to Plymouth Church (582 Pleasant St.) Friday, Oct. 6 – Sunday, Oct. 8 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Burbank School grounds: Help with gardening and distributing wood chips in garden areas. If you can bring shovels and gardening tools, that would be helpful. Be sure to put your name on your tools.

For all projects (including advance distribution of grocery bags), please use the online registration form to register and select your preferred project.

Middle school and High school students will earn Community Service hours.