NH town dealing with more controversy after resident wants to rename Columbus Day
DURHAM — The town is facing more controversy over it's Native American history after a retired minister suggested changing the name of Columbus Day.
Neal Ferris, of Durham, called Christopher Columbus a gold-grubbing murderer who set the stage for a takeover of lands belonging to Native American people. He spoke out at the Durham human rights commission meeting Wednesday morning.
This comes as local leaders are working with the New Hampshire Commission on Native American Affairs and federal officials to come to a resolution about what should happen to a controversial mural at the local post office.
Town Manager Todd Selig said the town takes residents' suggestions seriously but also hopes to compromise on the solutions.
"He views the discovery of the continent by Christopher Columbus as prompting a series of very negative events that had negative consequences for Native Americans. He feels renaming it Indigenous People's Day would be a better solution or outcome," Selig said. "I think the consensus of our commission, of which I'm a member, is to not move in that direction precisely, but rather to find a new day that we consider calling Indigenous People's Day or possible Native American Day to celebrate the history and the accomplishments and the contributions of Native Americans to this great country."
The mural at the post office, which dates back to 1959, has been an ongoing debate for years.
It depicts a Native American holding a torch, apparently ready to set a Dover settler’s house on fire and some residents have asked for it to be removed.
The town worked with the Postal Service and the New Hampshire Commission on Native American Affairs to add more context to the mural in the form of descriptions detailing the events in the pictures.
"The town of Durham's position has not been (to eliminate the mural) but to create a dialogue around it and create context for it to preserve the history but to celebrate the full history of that event," Selig said. "Durham really strives to be a welcoming community. We embraces all people from where ever they are from."