By Betsy Zahniser
I am writing to invite Wellesley voters to join me in voting “yes” on Question 1, regarding the commemoration of “Indigenous People’s Day,” in the upcoming March 2 Town election.
It seems to me that we should wait no longer to answer the call of Indigenous people to teach, learn, and honor their history and current reality on the land that is now called the United States of America, instead of celebrating those who brought conquest and colonialism.
I attended public school in the 1960’s. In elementary school, we studied the “French and Spanish Explorers” multiple times, with an emphasis on where and how they traveled, and how they expanded European presence in North and South America. In high school American History, we learned about the thirteen colonies, the American Revolution and independence from Britain, Manifest Destiny and the acquisition and settlement of the west by pioneers, America as a “melting pot” of immigrants. As I recall, we spent very little time learning about indigenous peoples from their own perspective, or an accurate portrayal of how their lands, lives and identities were taken in the name of European “civilization.” Meanwhile, at home, I spent hours roaming the woods in my neighborhood, and imagining myself living as an Indian, with an idealized picture of that life that I had gleaned from books and popular culture.
Fortunately, in our day, the telling of history includes a variety of original sources and voices. As an adult, I find myself hungry to learn from the lived experience of indigenous peoples, people of color, women, and more. It is a challenging journey, and the truth often hurts, but it feels better to open my eyes and ears, seek authenticity, and to honor indigenous people and other neglected people in our past and in our present day.
Wellesley, let us join more than a hundred other towns, cities and states that have already voted to re-name the second Monday in October. On March 2, please vote “yes” on Question 1.