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Manchester Approves Indigenous Peoples Day, But Will Continue Marking Columbus Day

Dan Tuohy / NHPR
Manchester, N.H., City Hall

Rather than replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, as some advocates were lobbying for, the city of Manchester will recognize both holidays on separate days beginning next year.

On Tuesday, the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 11-1 to mark the first Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day, while keeping the second Monday as Columbus Day. The board voted down a request to mark both holidays on the same day.

In recent years, some New Hampshire towns and cities have moved to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, an acknowledgment of the slaughter and displacement suffered by Native Americans after the arrival of European colonists. 

Manchester’s decision to mark both holidays was viewed as a letdown by Denise Pouliot, female head speaker for the Cowasuck band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People.

“I don’t want to bash what they are doing, because I do recognize that they are trying to do something, you know. But I just feel it fell short, and I just feel that deeper education needs to be had,” said Pouliot, who lives in Alton. 

Backers of the decision to mark both holidays called it a compromise, and say it ensures the contributions of Italian-American are recognized in the state’s largest city.

Pouliot said she will advocate for a statewide recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day, something the legislature has voted down in recent years.

The Board floated the idea of marking Indigenous Peoples Day in August, when it is recognized by the United Nations, but ultimately decided on the first Monday in October.

“To me it is about contextualizing Columbus' legacy,” said Alderman Will Steward, who voted in favor of the dual holidays but said he would have preferred they share a date. 

“And to really broaden the discussion surrounding Columbus’ contributions by recognizing his failings, too.”

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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