Did You Know: Indigenous Peoples Day

Acting Mayor Janey. Image credit: City of Boston

On Wednesday, Boston joined another twenty towns in Massachusetts in officially recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday of October. You can see the list of towns, including our neighbors in Wellesley and Newton, that no longer celebrate “Columbus Day.” Additionally, there are a number of school systems that recognize the day when their town does not: this includes Acton-Boxbrough, Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell and Wayland. Massachusetts is considering two statewide bills to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.

In Weston, very little is known about the indigenous people who were here before Puritans and Pilgrims showed up. When I investigated earlier this summer, I talked with Brian Donahue, local conservation and history maven and here’s what he said:

My impression is that the 1617 plague (flu? measles? no one is sure) hit particularly hard among the Massachusetts tribe from Pawtuxet (Plymouth) up to Boston, which is part of why it was relatively easy for the Pilgrims and then Puritans to move in during the 1620s and 30s — but we’re lacking much description of who was here before.
Native settlements were mostly along the coast and in the river valleys, along with the heaviest land use — uplands between rivers (like much of Weston and Lincoln) certainly part of these tribal territories but more lightly used.

There is much to discover here, and if the Owl had a lot more time, she would spend some time on it. One day. If anyone has more information or links to follow on local native populations and history, the Owl is all asymmetrical ears.

Later today, the Owl will publish ideas for how to spend your long weekend–any Marathoners out there?

One comment

  • The most readable book on the topic is Charles Mann’s “1491, America before Columbus”. The classic is William Cronon’s “Changes in the Land Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England.” Also Michael Tougias’s or Jill Lepore’s books on King Philip’s War.

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