New holiday floated

BAR HARBOR — Bar Harbor may be joining the list of towns in Maine to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday in October, the day Columbus Day is usually celebrated in the United States.

The council decided to prepare a resolution to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Once the resolution is drafted, it will come before the council again for approval.

Columbus Day is officially Oct. 12 every year, but the holiday is usually celebrated the second Monday in October.

Councilor Matt Hochman requested discussion on the topic after receiving emails from activists seeking this recognition. He said he supported it.

“How can we as a moral and ethical people continue to support someone who treated indigenous peoples so poorly?” Hochman said. “I think it’s a horrible message going forward to our children.”

“The fact that we celebrate Columbus Day in the United States is a rewrite of history,” said Sherri Mitchell, a lawyer and member of the Penobscot Nation. “When he landed in the West Indies and committed his horrific acts of genocide, there was no correlation to the founding of this country.”

All of the testimony from the audience was in support of the change, all decrying Columbus’ conquest of indigenous people in the late 1400s.

“With the change, we are hoping to actually write an accurate history for the generations going forward,” Mitchell added. “It would be the equivalent of a holiday celebrating Ted Bundy.”

Julia Gray, director of collections and research at the Abbe Museum, expressed the museum’s support for the resolution.

In August, Bangor’s City Council voted to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day under the same parameters as Bar Harbor is suggesting. Belfast was the first city in Maine to make the change in 2015.

Councilor Stephen Coston said the Columbus Day holiday was originally intended less as a celebration of Columbus and more a celebration of Italian-American culture and heritage.

Coston said he did not want to disrespect those of Italian heritage, but did vote in favor of the motion. Councilor Judie Noonan, who said she has Italian heritage, said naming the holiday after Columbus was “embarrassing.”

Councilor Peter St. Germain said he voted in opposition of the motion because he didn’t agree with the choice of date.

“The second Monday in October is not Columbus Day,” St. Germain said. “Columbus Day is the 12th of October every single year.”

“It’s celebrated on the second Monday because the federal holiday says we have a long weekend,” St. Germain added. “I’m not sure that would be the best choice.”

The motion passed by a vote of 5-2. Councilors Hochman, Noonan, Coston, Erin Early Ward and Gary Friedmann voted in favor. St. Germain and Paul Paradis were opposed.

Bar Harbor does not officially recognize Columbus Day as a holiday, and the town office is open on the second Monday in October, according to Paradis.

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd is a University of Maine graduate and a former Bar Harbor reporter for the Mount Desert Islander.
Samuel Shepherd

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