DEI members hold unofficial Indigenous People’s Day celebration


Sophia Keang

Chair of Westford School Committee Chris Sanders speaks at the unofficial celebration of Indigenous heritage and support at the Westford Town Commons.

Sophia Keang, Co-Managing Editor

To honor and recognize Indigenous heritage and history, members of Westford’s DEI Committee and the First Parish Church Action for Social Justice Group held an unofficial celebration for Indigenous People’s Day on Oct. 11 in the Westford Town Common from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

Every second Monday of October marks Columbus Day, a nationally recognized holiday. However, in Oct. 2021, the controversy of the naming of “Columbus Day” was brought up during a town meeting. The committee took a vote as to what the town should officially recognize the holiday. Though the votes fell short 108 to 111, and the day was never officially accepted by the town of Westford as “Indigenous People’s Day”. 

As a result, DEI Committee member Jenny Jun-lei Kravitz and other DEI Committee members partnered with the Co-leader of United American Indians of New England (UIANE), Mahtowin Munroe, who was able to help with the research aspect for the event. 

“Indigenous People’s Day is to highlight and understand the struggles and the resiliency of Indigenous people, which is looking at the fight against colonialism and genocide. And looking at what Columbus Day is, we need to understand why that legacy is in direct conflict with honoring and supporting Indigenous people,” Kravitz said.

Kravitz began the event by speaking upon Westford’s Indigenous History and the Indigenous Agenda in the state of Massachusetts.

“I invite everyone here in this place [Westford] to learn the stories of the Nipmuc and Wabanaki that will be shared today and to show your support by advocating for and honoring this land and its people,” Kravitz said in her opening remark. 

Chair of Westford School Committee Chris Sanders and A World of Difference (ADL) middle school club advisor Amy Bailey spoke further about the history of Westford’s land.

“Everything in this town belonged to the Indigenous people, and I think most residents of Westford don’t have a solid understanding of its history that’s so important. […] It really gives us a chance to step back and look at the history curriculum WPS has implemented and ask ourselves if we [WPS] are giving it the attention it deserves,” Sanders said.

Information tables were also set up at the event by UAINE and the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICoB) which included handouts about Massachusetts land history along with President Joe Biden’s proclamation on Indigenous People’s Day.

An additional information table was set up including books about Indigenous heritage and culture for children, young adults, and adults from Kravitz’s personal library such as Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard and An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. 

While all Westford community members of any age were invited to the event, no WA students attended. However, Blanchard Student Council Representative Elise Kravitz took part in the celebration to educate herself on Indigenous history.

“It’s important to learn about the history of the first people who came to America who wasn’t Christopher Columbus. […] We [Westford residents] need to know how things in Westford came to be and what builds our community today which isn’t really taught in school,” Kravitz said.

Co-Chair of DEI Committee Mamatha Jagannathan and additional school committee members were able to make an appearance at the celebration to support the recognition of Indigenous heritage and history. 

Participants gathered in front of the gazebo for the final part of the event with closing remarks by Jenny Jun-lei Kravitz.

“As a community in Westford, we need to educate ourselves about the history of the Indigenous people connected to this land, start having conversations and listen to native voices. [Al]though, there may not be many of those voices specifically living in Westford, we still need to value them the best way we can on issues that especially concern them,” Kravitz said.

For additional information, visit the following:

United American Indians of New England (UAINE) Website

State of Massachusett’s Indigenous People’s Day Website

Official Website for the Nipmuc Tribe

Official Website for the Passamaquoddy Tribe