The Bulletin Board

GOP-backed bill to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day in August draws opposition

By: - February 10, 2022 11:37 am
State House dome and the state flag

The full House is set to take up the bill Tuesday. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

A Republican-backed bill to preserve Columbus Day and have New Hampshire celebrate Indigenous People’s Day in August drew opposition at a public hearing this week, in a reprise of a fight last legislative session when Abenaki leaders spoke against the August date.

Rep. Jess Edwards, an Auburn Republican, who is a co-sponsor of House Bill 1173, favored the August date, which would correspond with the United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. He presented the August date as a compromise and a way of ending what he called the “intersectional wars.”

“We can finally end four or five years of fighting over whether or not we’re going to have an Indigenous People’s Day because we can just acknowledge it and do it,” he said, adding that he does not generally support the United Nations, “but this is one thing I think we could accept.”

When asked about Indigenous people’s perspective on the bill, Edwards said he believed they would prefer to have Indigenous People’s Day replace Columbus Day. “I think that their official position would be that they still want to keep it on Columbus Day, and I’m just saying, I love you, let’s figure out how to agree to agree.”

Some testimony argued that leaving Columbus Day intact would miss the point.

Asma Elhuni, an activist who works with the nonprofit Rights and Democracy, said replacing Columbus Day is an important expression of the state’s values. Elhuni is also a resident of Concord, which recently opted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. She opposed HB 1173, along with 68 people who signed in remotely. Four people logged support of the bill.

“We can’t be honoring violence,” Elhuni said about Columbus’ legacy, adding that as a Libyan American she hopes the United States can celebrate immigrants, but not by glorifying violent history.

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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.

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