The choice to take down historic indicators commemorating the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in Concord is receiving some backlash from the neighborhood, with one resident saying the matter ought to have been voted on.
Officials eliminated the so-called tercentenary markers in late January after a pair of commissions argued the indicators had harmed Indigenous folks and didn’t precisely mirror what occurred when settlers based the city in 1635.
Resident Fred Berthoff, whose household has lived on the town for the higher a part of the previous 60 years, mirrored how he and vacationers would typically cease to learn the indicators to achieve information of the city’s historical past. In specific, he identified how “The Milldam” signal, marking the positioning of an Indian fishing weir, supplied an understanding of the structure of downtown however “now no one will know.”
“I think a lot of people don’t like it but they don’t want to be public about it because it is such a hot button issue,” Berthoff informed the Herald. He mentioned a query about whether or not to take away the indicators ought to have appeared as a poll query.
Two different tercentenary indicators highlighted an oak tree that settlers purchased from Indians for the city’s incorporation, known as “Jethro’s Tree” and a slope the place settlers constructed their first dwellings, known as “The First Settlement.”
Concord acquired the three markers in 1930 from the Massachusetts Bay Colony Tercentenary Commission as a part of an initiative recognizing the three hundredth anniversary of the unique colony’s founding.
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission in addition to the Historical Commission discovered the indicators as “problematic and antithetical to the inclusive goals of the Town of Concord,” mentioned Donna McIntosh, the city’s communications supervisor.
“Following the recommendation of the Select Board, the chairs of the DEI Commission, Historical Commission, and Historic Districts Commission have been invited to begin a conversation to discuss the interpretation and messaging on these sites, as well as a plan for the actual signs, which are period pieces,” McIntosh mentioned in an announcement to the Herald.
The Select Board voted in November to take away the indicators quickly for upkeep, quickly after members initially determined to cowl them up, in response to the hyperlocal Concord Bridge.
Select Board Chairman Henry Dane forged the lone vote towards the elimination and coverings. He then consulted with historians who informed him the indicators conveying the land transactions weren’t correct however “they did not provide much detail about what the correct version was,” he informed the Herald.
“I don’t think there’s much question that the history could be expressed more accurately but that was no reason to remove the signs,” Dane mentioned. “The signs are not like scholarly ‘treat this with footnotes.’ They’re basically providing the accepted version of the story for tourists who come to visit the town.”
When requested whether or not the indicators ought to go to referendum, Dane mentioned: “I don’t think … that’s the kind of issue that ought to be politicized.”
The elimination of the indicators, regardless of being a “hasty and ill-considered decision,” isn’t the end-all, be-all, Dane mentioned. The city’s deputy supervisor is working to convene a gathering with stakeholders on how one can proceed from right here, he mentioned.
Joe Palumbo, chairman of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission, in a November memo to the Select Board mentioned the indicators “ignore the thousands of years of previous indigenous settlement” earlier than the colonists arrived and there’s “no evidence that the local indigenous peoples ever (willingly) sold the land,” the Concord Bridge first reported.
Arlington resident Richard Bond is a descendant of the Rev. Peter Bulkeley, a colleague of Simon Willard, the founding father of Concord. Bond additionally has kin who’re Indigenous.
In an interview Saturday, Bond informed the Herald if the indicators are going to commemorate the founding of the city, they need to embrace the Native perspective. He highlighted how Natives had been at a “disadvantaged position in terms of the transaction” as they fell ailing from the smallpox epidemic.
“If there’s going to be an inscription describing what happened from a Euro-centric perspective,” Bond mentioned, “there also be an inscription that would describe it in terms of the situation that the Native community was in at the time.”
Bond additionally took exception to how the indicators carried an outline of the Massachusetts state seal initially adopted in 1898. It contains a disembodied arm of Plymouth colony navy adviser Myles Standish holding a sword over the pinnacle of a Native American determine in a peaceable stance.
Historical Commission member Nancy Fresella-Lee, in a November Select Board assembly, additionally highlighted the state seal. A state fee tasked with rethinking the seal and motto disbanded with none particular suggestions after two years of labor.
“They are not works of art and their intention is to convey educational information,” Fresella-Lee mentioned of the indicators. “They are no longer educational, and in fact, they are offensive.”
In whole, the Massachusetts Bay Colony Tercentenary Commission positioned 275 cast-iron markers in 95 cities and cities throughout the Commonwealth, however as time has gone on, many have been misplaced or fallen right into a state of disrepair.
The state Department of Transportation restored 21 historic markers present in 10 cities and cities, all in central or western Massachusetts, in 2019. At the time, the company recovered roughly 174 of the unique 275 indicators.
Concord native Daniel Wilson mentioned his household was one of many first 15 to settle in Concord and acknowledged that not all land transactions had been achieved peacefully. He sided with Berthoff that there ought to have been a vote on the indicators.
“When you cancel history like that and you start focusing on rewriting history, that generation is just going to repeat the bad history because they didn’t learn anything from it,” Wilson informed the Herald. “My ancestors would be rolling over in their graves.”