Vineyard schools remove Columbus Day from calendar

Indigenous Peoples’ Day will be celebrated on Oct. 10 this year.

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The Martha's Vineyard Diversity Coalition is seeking to achieve four goals as part of their work with Island schools.

Updated 6/24

Martha’s Vineyard schools will wipe Columbus Day from the calendar and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Oct. 10, 2022. 

After an extensive presentation by Lisa Pimentel and Jocelyn Coleman Walton, co-chairs of the Martha’s Vineyard Diversity Coalition (MVDC) education committee, the All-Island School Committee voted unanimously to establish Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of Columbus Day. The committee’s vote satisfies the first of four goals proposed by Pimentel and Coleman Walton as part of an effort to elevate indigenous nations and address commonly held American misconceptions. Coleman Walton stressed the mission of the MVDC education committee: “to support Island schools to ensure every child gets the education they deserve in an environment that allows them to feel safe and valued.” She continued to say that acknowledging and supporting the diversified peoples of the Island is a good first step toward that end. “We have chosen to begin with the first people of this Island — the Wampanoags.”

Coleman Walton added that the presentation was composed with the perspective, input, and expertise of Bettina Washington, Aquinnah Wampanoag tribal historic preservation officer, along with Martha Vanderhoop, David Two Arrows Vanderhoop, Saskia Vanderhoop, Nanauwe Vanderhoop, and Chrissy Laurie.

Another goal of the MVDC education committee is to include acknowledgement of the fact that the Island was Noepe — home to the Wampanoag people — long before Englishman Bartholomew Gosnold landed on its shores as a colonizer. “The Wampanoag nation, also known as the people of the first light, has inhabited present-day Massachusetts and Eastern Rhode Island for more than 12,000 years. Its original territory covered more than half the state of Massachusetts,” Coleman Walton said. 

She noted that along with the Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag, which are federally recognized, four other Wampanoag tribes are also recognized as sovereign nations by the commonwealth of Massachusetts: the Chappaquiddick Wampanoag, the Herring Pond Wampanoag, the Assawompset Nemasket Wampanoag band, and the Pocasset Wampanoag. Coleman Walton said recognizing the various tribes and their land is a powerful and simple way to show respect for the original inhabitants of the U.S., and a first step in repairing relationships with native communities and with the environment. 

As far as Columbus Day goes, and the misconstrued history behind his journey to America, Coleman Walton said people should see Christopher Columbus for what he was: a tyrant who was returned to Spain after his escapade to be tried for crimes against humanity perpetrated against indigenous people. “We are pleased to note that the Oak Bluffs School and the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School already acknowledge Indigenous Peoples’ Day on their calendars,” Coleman Walton said. “Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a refusal to allow the genocide of millions of indigenous people to be erased from history, and a demand for a recognition of indigenous humanity.” She added that Redbud Resource Group, a native advocacy group, reports that two out of three native people feel erased from their school or community. “Nanauwe Vanderhoop, upon introducing herself to her off-Island colleagues, was met with, ‘I thought natives were extinct,’” Coleman Walton said. She said the richness and beauty of indigenous culture is still very much alive, but many non-native people aren’t learning about and being exposed to it enough. She suggested folks take advantage of the strong community resource the Island has in the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), and learn the signficance of Cranberry Day (the second day in October), attend a powwow the weekend after Labor Day, or learn about the Black Brook Singers of Aquinnah, and what the drum and drumming represent in Wampanoag culture. 

Additionally, the MVDC education committee hopes to have the month of November — Native American Heritage Month — be a time to teach kids about the proud history of indigenous peoples in America, and particularly the people of Noepe. “As we celebrate traditions, languages, and stories of native people, we ensure these rich histories and contributions will live on with each passing generation,” Coleman Walton said. 

Although the school only voted on the calendar change from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the MVDC education committee also sought to recognize the National Day of Mourning. While many in America celebrate Thanksgiving, Coleman Walton said that for native Americans, Thanksgiving is a very painful time. “It is a reminder of the genocide of millions of native people, countless broken treaties, the theft of native lands, and a relentless assault on native culture,” she said. 

The National Day of Mourning is an annual demonstration held on the fourth Thursday in November that aims to educate the public about native Americans in the U.S., to dispel myths surrounding the Thanksgiving story, and to raise awareness of the historical and ongoing struggles facing native American tribes today, Coleman Walton said.

Updated with more details -Ed.

18 COMMENTS

    • In the same predicament. The Spanish Empire sent fleets of sailing vessels to seek new lands. But Columbus gets all the credit. Columbus sailed onward, but the Spanish infiltrated the Americas, whose aggressive imperialism was not to be outdone by England and France.

  1. Albert– Well, there would be millions more of them, and they would be on the land that they were taking care of, as they did for about 30,000 years.
    They wouldn’t have extreme poverty, high levels of alcoholism and drug addiction, and nothing to look forward to except continued subsistent deplorable conditions on marginalized land.
    They would have hope for their children .

    In short, Albert, they would be home– right where they belong.

  2. What a travesty to American History. How can these Biden lover people live with themselves after screwing up our great country in just over 1 year! Terrible!

    • Biden issued a proclamation to make the 11 October US holiday Indigenous Peoples’ Day, alongside the existing Columbus Day. That is not what is happening here.

      • What is happening here is that the locals see little reason celebrate a Spanish financed Italian who disrespected the indigenous people wherever he went.

    • My ancestors were on the northeast coast of North America well before Columbus or Vespucci ever sailed away from the coast of Europe. Some even made it as far south as MV.

    • Carl–Vespucci was a cartographer. Two continents are named after him.
      Columbus most certainly was the first European to “discover” the Americas, about 500 years after a different European “discovered” it.

  3. Columbus had punished and even executed some of the Europeans for abusing the natives. Columbus was then arrested for actions taken against rebellious European settlers, not the indigenous peoples. Bartolomé de las Casas, though critical of aspects of Columbus’ administration, wrote of the “sweetness and benignity” of the explorer and added: “Truly, I would not dare blame the admiral’s intentions, for I know him well and I know his intentions were good.” But I bet no one was even asked to speak in favor of Columbus at the committee meeting. Howard Zinn made it hip to hate on Columbus. Now one man’s sensational interpretation of history is accepted as gospel, and our heroes are discarded.

    • Thanks for posting, Dan. I posted below, my own little history. Of course there should be a Native American Day. I guess there’s a mob on the Island who wants to take back Columbus Day from Italian-Americans. Instead, I’d like to see the Land Bank give the old Kennedy Estate back to the Wampanoag Tribe. And celebrate Columbus Day the right way, with sausages on the grill, lemon ice, and zeppoles.

  4. Another example of cancel culture in the Peoples Republic of Massachusetts. Pick another day for Indigenous Peoples Day. Leave Columbus Day alone. As an Italian American Columbus Day remains unchanged despite this woke nonsense. No historical figure is perfect.

  5. In 1891, one of the largest mob lynchings in the US left 11 Italian immigrants hanging from lampposts. In an effort to stop the trend of lynching Italians and other dark-skinned Catholics, the US President declared Columbus Day a National Holiday. Back then, Columbus Day was celebrated internationally; it was understood that Columbus was an explorer and, like Dan Larkosh points out, not an Imperialist, Warrior or Slave Trafficker. In the 1920’s, my grandfather immigrated to the US from Sicily with 23 cents in his pocket. His first born son, my father, joined the Marines and became a combat veteran in WWII. He returned with a great respect for the Code Whisperers. Us kids spent several summers in the back seat of a station wagon going out west so my father could reconnect with his brothers. Whoever cancelled Columbus Day, no pizza for you!

  6. “With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want. Here there are so many of these slaves”
    “And I say that Your Highnesses ought not to consent that any foreigner does business or sets foot here, except Christian Catholics”
    “It appears to me that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion”
    These are some of Columbus’s own words. Not a person to be celebrated. Quite the opposite. Someone to be looked upon with contempt and pity.

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