The process to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day was put on hold during Wednesday’s West Tisbury select board meeting.
Skipper Manter, West Tisbury select board chair, had asked to put this issue on the agenda last week. The plan was for the select board to ask the West Tisbury personnel board “to investigate the possibility of changing our language in the personnel board bylaw to reflect Indigenous Peoples Day and not Columbus Day.” Additionally, Manter said, he would like to forward this on to the state legislature and Congress “to make this change statewide and nationwide.”
“I agree it’s a good idea to change the name,” Cynthia Mitchell, West Tisbury select board member, said. “It feels like it’s changing informally.”
However, Mitchell said she was unsure how much influence West Tisbury can exert on the state and federal level for the change. Manter said at least beginning the process at home was important.
According to Jennifer Rand, West Tisbury town administrator, if the change is made, the personnel board would need to bring forward a warrant article for the wording change at the next town meeting. Due to Massachusetts not recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day, West Tisbury would need to word the personnel bylaw in a way that gives a day off on the second Monday of October for a holiday the town recognizes. In the end, West Tisbury’s voters will be the ones to decide whether the town observes the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day.
“I don’t know what indigenous means,” Kent Healy, West Tisbury select board member, said.
“It means native peoples, so basically the first peoples of the Island,” Rand explained. “Which would be our tribal neighbors.”
Healy questioned Rand about the accuracy of the definition. Rand said that while there may be a dictionary definition that differs somewhat, this is the common way people understand the term.
“It doesn’t matter who they were, there were some,” said Mitchell.
“I mean, I knew who Christopher Columbus was, not that I think he was a great guy, but I sure don’t know what indigenous peoples is,” Healy responded.
Rand tried to explain, based on things she recently read about the topic, that indigenous people are those who were in America before Columbus arrived in the Caribbean. Additionally, Columbus Day honors his discovery of America, which he did not “discover.” In turn, Indigenous Peoples Day is an attempt to “honor the fact [Columbus’] legacy is perhaps not something to be quite so proud of, and that there were people that came before.”
Healy said he already knew Columbus did not discover America.
Manter wanted this to be a unanimous decision and suggested holding off on the vote until next week’s meeting. Manter asked Healy to read up on the subject and think about it.
In other news, the select board unanimously decided to find Lighthouse Taxi in violation of rules in Edgartown. These included parking violations and issues of picking up people. Among the violations was when one of the taxi drivers, Antoniya Sabeva, parked at the Edgartown Lighthouse area for an extended period of time. When approached and questioned by Edgartown Special Officer Brian Jordan, Sabeva attempted not to answer who she was there to pick up, and she tried to not show her license when requested, according to the Edgartown Police report.
Attorney Casey Dobel, Lighthouse Taxi’s representative, said there was some miscommunication between the two individuals. Dobel said Sabeva is an immigrant to the U.S., and while her English is very good, there may have been some misunderstandings that occurred while talking to Jordan. Sabeva has no prior violations, so the board unanimously agreed to let her off with a warning this time around.
In other business, West Tisbury will be forming a town tree committee to figure out the best way to approach replacing dangerous trees. The committee would also be looking into the other trees in town. Tim Boland, the ex officio board member of Polly Hill Arboretum, offered the donation of trees from the arboretum, and cooperation with West Tisbury planters, to offset some of the costs for the town. He also offered to help in the search for a few people who would help tree warden Jeremiah Brown with the tree analysis and replacements.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Brown said. “The more minds, the better.”
Meanwhile, the select board unanimously approved Nicola Blake’s appointment to the climate plan action committee. Will Whiting resigned from the West Tisbury shellfish committee.
The select board also unanimously approved awarding a contract to Keenan & Kenny for the Howes House building project.