Maine officially changed the second Monday in October from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day

This milestone is a tribute to those who have advocated for the name change for decades. Changing from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day is a symbolic acknowledgement of past wrongs perpetrated by Columbus and European colonization of this land.

We challenge Gov. Mills to also change the present-day state policy of stealing land and infringing on indigenous sovereignty that is aligned with the colonial trajectory that Columbus and his ilk set into place long ago. To change this paradigm in real terms means a change in legislative policy and court battles that impact indigenous communities.

To start, Mills could change the state’s position in the court cases Penobscot Nation v. Janet Mills, and the State of Maine v. the EPA, cases that center around continued stealing of indigenous land and the paternalistic nature of our relationship with our indigenous neighbors.

In 2015, Attorney General Mills argued against extending protections of the federal Violence Against Women Act to indigenous women on their own land. Expanding landfills in proximity to tribal territory, mining regulations, and even the proposed CMP corridor are other areas of contention. The state’s case on all of these issues revolves around the Maine Indian Land Claims settlement, which the tribes have called “fractured and broken.” This agreement needs to be revisited.

At the signing ceremony to change the holiday, Mills said “… Let us continue to heal the divisions of the past, and bring … tribal communities together with the state and build a future shaped by mutual respect and trust.”

Changing a name is a first step; changing the nature of our relationship with our indigenous neighbors and with this land we call home must come next.

Dan Marks

North Yarmouth