Discussion continues on Westborough Indigenous Peoples’ Day petition

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Westborough town iconWESTBOROUGH – Petitioners say a proposed Town Meeting article would seek to observe Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day side-by-side, going forward.

“As a state holiday, it’s Columbus Day, but in Westborough it’s also called Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” petitioner Lisa Edinberg said during a Select Board meeting on Feb. 8.

“This petition is about the recognition of the existence, the importance and the role of the Indigenous people who inhabited this land before us — before colonization, before westward expansion — and the recognition that Indigenous peoples, their societies and their cultures had value and continue to have value despite fewer living here now,” Edinberg said.

It honors the perseverance of Indigenous people, she said.

“I believe it’s a way of honoring the Indigenous people whose land we sit upon as I speak,” Edinberg said.

This citizen’s petition, she said, is not about Columbus. 

“Columbus Day is and will remain a federal and state holiday,” Edinberg said. “This petition doesn’t change that, it doesn’t even address it because it’s not about Columbus and whether he’s worthy of celebration.” 

She continued that there will “always” be people who believe and don’t believe Columbus is worthy of being celebrated. 

Petition garners support

The petition has been signed by nearly 100 registered voters in Westborough. 

It asks for the town to vote to recognize and refer to the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

This comes after the Select Board voted 3-2 back in October against supporting a recommendation from the town’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

The Select Board had several conversations about Columbus, the holiday and the process of this recommendation, Edinberg said. 

The decision, she said, got mired down in the process.

“You don’t need a complicated process to do the right thing,” Edinberg said.

Moving the article earlier 

As it stands, this article will be the 32nd item on the warrant.

Town Manager Kristi Williams said citizen’s petitions have historically been the last articles on such warrants. 

Edinberg requested that the article be placed earlier though, anticipating that there will be people who want to speak both for and against Columbus and the holiday. She suggested that discussion could take place in the first two-thirds of the meeting.

Select Board members voiced a mix of support and hesitancy over the prospect of moving the item. 

Ian Johnson said they would be opening a “can of worms” with such an action. 

Shelby Marshall noted that Town Meeting could vote to move the article on the floor to take it out of order.

Select Board member Sean Keogh voiced his support for moving the article. He noted that young people might want to speak on the matter. In its current placement, they might have to wait late into the night to be part of the conversation. 

The Select Board did not take a vote on moving the article at this time. 

Town meeting is scheduled for March 19 at Westborough High School. 

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