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State reps from Durham working on 'Indigenous Peoples' Day' bill

Union Leader Correspondent

September 28. 2017 8:32PM
Two representatives from the town of Durham will write a bill that would have New Hampshire recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day on Columbus Day. (Kimberley Haas/Union Leader Correspondent file photo)

DURHAM — Two state representatives from Durham plan to write a bill that would recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day in addition to Columbus Day on the second Monday of October.

Democrats Timothy Horrigan and Wayne Burton will be working on the bill, which they plan to introduce to the New Hampshire House of Representatives in January.

Burton said Thursday morning he would like to see a series of discussions on the history of this region result from the proposed bill.

“I’m just really into promoting that history be portrayed accurately these days,” Burton said. “When this legislation is filed it will get people thinking and talking about it. I’m kind of resentful because people are unwilling to do this... The history, to be useful, ought to be truthful.”

During their meeting on Sept. 18, members of the Durham Town Council decided to put Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the local calendar, adding it to the Columbus Day holiday, which falls on Oct. 9 this year.

In the adopted resolution, it acknowledges that Durham is built upon the homelands and villages of indigenous people of the region and that individual or systemic acts of aggression and intolerance toward others engenders further hostility and discord.

Town Administrator Todd Selig was instructed to encourage Gov. Chris Sununu to give consideration to designating the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Selig sent out a letter about it Wednesday.

In a statement Thursday morning, Selig said whether it’s the right choice for New Hampshire to follow Durham’s lead is a difficult question.

“Reasonable people can arrive at different conclusions. Simply having the discussion, however, helps to raise awareness and create a fuller understanding of the legacy, both good and bad, of Christopher Columbus, and the impacts his discovery of America had on the indigenous peoples who lived here long before his arrival. As New Hampshire citizens, we have only to look at place names like the Kancamagus Highway, Lake Winnipesaukee and the Piscataqua River to understand the profound impact Indigenous People have had on our great state,” Selig wrote.

When reached for comment, Benjamin Vihstadt, a spokesman for Sununu, said Columbus Day is a designated holiday under the law, and changing that designation would be the prerogative of the Legislature.

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