The Bulletin Board

Efforts waylaid to make Indigenous People’s Day an official state holiday

By: - April 15, 2021 6:00 am
Paul and Denise Pouliot

Denise and Paul Pouliot live in Alton. He is the Sag8mo and THPO (speaker) and she is the Sag8moskwa (lady speaker and an artist) of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook and Abenaki People. (Peter Randall photograph)

When a proposal about Indigenous People’s Day in New Hampshire came out of a House committee, Paul Pouliot of Alton was surprised by what he saw – and not in a good way. It had changed so much that Pouliot was glad when the proposal was ultimately tabled. 

Pouliot is the council chief and speaker of the Cowasuck Band of Pennacook Abenaki. He had followed testimony on the bill closely.

“Teachers weighed in one after the other (in support of the proposal),” he said.

As introduced, the bill would have renamed Columbus Day, which would become Indigenous People’s Day. Fourteen other states have already made this change, including Vermont and Maine. Advocates of the change say that it recognizes the harmful legacy of colonialism, with Columbus as its figurehead.

But when the bill came out of the House Executive Departments and Administration Committee, it had been altered. Instead of renaming Columbus Day, it preserved it – and assigned Indigenous People’s Day a date in August instead.

Pouliot said he preferred at that point for the bill to be killed because passing the revised version would have “adverse effects.”

“Things got flipped around,” he said. “If we said, ‘Today is sunny,’ they say it’s cloudy.”

The bill was tabled, which means the proposal is dead for now. If lawmakers want to reconsider the proposal, it would have to be reintroduced in a future session.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.