Exeter senior pushes change to honor native peoples

Emmanuelle Brindamour '21 successfully lobbies the Town of Exeter to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day.

Patrick Garrity
October 13, 2020

When the Town of Exeter observed a public holiday Monday, it officially was recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day rather than Columbus Day — thanks, in part, to Emmanuelle Brindamour ’21.

The senior sent a letter to the town’s governing Select Board, lobbying for the name change to celebrate and acknowledge the Native populations, who were stewards of the land and waterways for generations before European colonists arrived.

“Instead of celebrating Columbus, a figure who initiated centuries of suffering that continues today, we acknowledge the culture, rich history and suffering of the Pennacook-Abenaki of New Hampshire as well as all indigenous peoples,” Brindamour said.

The Select Board took up the matter at its meeting Oct. 5. After a brief discussion, unanimously passed a resolution.

“I think some recognition has to occur: we didn’t get here first,” said Selectwoman Julie Gilman. “And we owe a lot of what to have to who was here first.”

Brindamour received word of the change from Town Manager Russell Dean the following morning.

“I'm grateful that the Select Board was so efficient, willing to enact change, and especially support young voices,” Brindamour said. “This was an important change for the town in bringing justice for indigenous peoples, past and present.”

Fourteen states, the District of Columbia and more than 130 cities around the country observe Indigenous Peoples Day instead of or in addition to Columbus Day, USA Today reported. Gilman said a bill to recognize the day died in the New Hampshire legislature last session; she's hopeful another will be proposed and passed this coming term.

Brindamour is conducting an independent study on the town’s treaty with the indigenous Pennacook people and is a member of the Indigenous NH Collective Collaborative, a statewide effort to highlight contributions of indigenous people and educate Granite Staters about their heritage and enduring legacy. Brindamour is also working with PEA’s Office of Multicultural Affairs to restart the Indigenous Peoples’ Cultural Club.

“This celebration is a tremendous learning opportunity for our entire community, where indigenous voices can be in the forefront,” Brindamour said. “Most towns in New Hampshire operate on lands that remain unceded [by] the Pennacook-Abenaki, so this simple change is a step in the right direction, the beginning of our reconciliation with indigenous peoples.”