Hundreds gathered on Albemarle Field Monday for Newton’s Indigenous Peoples Day.
The day included speeches, dance demonstrations, vendor booths, music and much more.
Newton’s City Council voted in November 2020 to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, in honor of Native American peoples and cultures. The next year, the Indigenous Peoples Day Newton held its first celebration.
Native American tribes have occupied what is now New England for thousands of years. Much of eastern Massachusetts and the land Newton stands on was inhabited by Wampanoag and Massachusett tribes.
European settlers of the 17th century lived alongside Native Americans and worked out land sales and treaties with them, but the Europeans also brought illnesses that the natives had no immunity to, like smallpox and cattle-borne viruses, and pandemics ravaged indigenous communities. Then more settlers arrived from Europe and eventually displaced native families and tribes to reservations.
In Newton, Pastor John Eliot made it his life’s work to convert Native Americans to Christianity and white European culture. In 1646, a tribal chief’s son, named Waban, became the first Native American to convert to Christianity. Waban then founded the village of Nonantum and helped convert other natives to Christianity. The Boston College Law Library has an in-depth look at that and other aspects of Newton Native American history on its blog.
In recent years, communities across the country have been adding Indigenous Peoples Day to their calendars, many in place of Columbus Day.
Check out this photo gallery from Monday’s celebration in Newton: