Monday’s holiday could be “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” in Concord next year

  • In this Aug. 27, 2017 photo, the Christopher Columbus statue stands at Manhattan's Columbus Circle in New York. A movement to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day has new momentum but the gesture to recognize victims of European colonialism has also prompted howls of outrage from some Italian Americans, who say eliminating their festival of ethnic pride is culturally insensitive, too. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) Bebeto Matthews

Monitor staff
Published: 10/10/2021 6:00:10 PM

This could be Concord’s last Columbus Day.

A proposal to change the name of the October holiday in the city’s code of ordinances to honor indigenous groups instead of Christopher Columbus will be considered by Concord City Council next month.

Last month, Ward 10 Councilor Zandra Rice Hawkins put forth a proposal to change the name of the October holiday recognized by the City of Concord as Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, as the Concord School Board voted to do last year.

City offices are closed on Monday for the holiday.

Rice Hawkins originally asked the council to pass a motion changing the name in time for Oct. 11, without holding a public hearing.

However, after discussion among councilors and City Solicitor Jim Kennedy on the legal requirements of changing city ordinance, the council voted to open the issue up for a public hearing at the Nov. 11 City Council meeting. Two councilors, At-Large City Councilor Fred Keach and Ward 7 Councilor Keith Nyhan, voted against the motion, saying it was premature to craft an ordinance change before hearing from the public.

“I can understand that there’s an ordinance issue,” Rice Hawkins said. “But it’s hard to reconcile having a public debate or conversation over the lived experience of communities that have been marginalized. I’m really hopeful that during the November public hearing that we’re really thoughtful about the harm that can create.”

Concord residents can contact their Ward Councilor or an At-Large Councilor to express their views on the ordinance change, or speak during the public comment period the meeting on Nov. 8 at 7 p.m.

“I’m disappointed we won’t have the name change in place for this month but I think it’s important that we’re having this conversation,” Rice Hawkins said.

In Warner, the second Monday in October is already called Indigneous Peoples’ Day. The Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum there will hold an event on erasure and reclamation from 1 to 3 p.m. on Monday.

Other New Hampshire municipalities that have officially changed the name of the holiday include Hopkinton, Nashua, Dover, Durham and Exeter.

Last June, Concord City Council pledged to hold community forums on racial justice to identify concrete steps the city could take to address racism and discrimination after the death of George Floyd. No forums have been held yet. The city council and staff are working on scheduling a diversity training with the National League of Cities.

“Concord has said that it wants to be an inclusive and welcoming community and part of that is taking steps like this to rectify historic wrongs,” Rice Hawkins said. “This seem like a small change, but it’s a really significant one that would go a long way to show that the City of Concord is really committed to equality and to justice.”

Cassidy Jensen bio photo

Cassidy Jensen has been a reporter at the Monitor, covering the city of Concord and criminal justice, since July 2021. Previously, she was a fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, where she earned a master's degree. Her work has been published in Documented, THE CITY, Washington City Paper and Street Sense Media. When she's not at City Council meetings, you can find her hiking in the White Mountains.

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