Columbus on hot seat in Framingham

School committee debating Indigenous Peoples’ Day

THE LIST OF EARLY-ADOPTER Massachusetts communities that have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day is about what you’d expect: Amherst, Northampton, Cambridge, Brookline, and Somerville. School committees in Mashpee and Pittsfield have also jumped on board.

But now the school committee in Framingham is considering making the switch, and it will be interesting to see what happens in a more politically mainstream community.

Framingham is Democrat country, but it’s no Amherst or Cambridge. Republicans have made respectable showings there. Scott Brown ran about 1,000 votes behind Martha Coakley in Framingham  when he was elected to the US Senate in 2010. Charlie Baker ran about 1,700 votes behind Coakley in Framingham in 2014 when he was first elected governor; he cruised to victory there this year.

The issue is clearly gaining steam across the country as more and more communities consider a holiday name change. Berkeley, California, became the first community to make the switch in 1992, but the idea dates back to the 1970s.

Gloria Pascual, the chair of the Framingham School Committee’s racial equity subcommittee, got the ball moving in her community in late November when she said renaming Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day was the right way to go.

“What he (Christopher Columbus) stood for is not what we stand for,” she said, referring to the genocide and oppression of Native Americans that many associate with the Italian explorer.

But at Wednesday’s meeting of the School Committee it was clear there was no consensus on the issue. The committee voted 6-2 to table the issue until the January 2 meeting. Members who voted to table the matter said they needed more time to study the issue, raised procedural concerns, or simply opposed the idea.

“What bothers me is it’s a national holiday and I don’t think it’s our purview to change a national holiday,” said school committee member Rick Finlay, according to a report in the Metrowest Daily News.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Schools Superintendent Robert Tremblay took a Solomon-like approach, suggesting the system celebrate a “Columbus Day-slash-Indigenous-Peoples’ Day.”

“If I had to take a position, I would include both days in an effort to be inclusive and acknowledge both Columbus Day as a long-standing, 80-year-old holiday as well as Indigenous Peoples’ Day to acknowledge we’re moving in a different direction,” said Tremblay.