The Somerset County town of Starks has alternative plans for Monday — the day much of America celebrates Columbus Day, a national holiday.

Residents of Starks — population of about 640, according to the 2010 census — voted 32-2 at the March annual Town Meeting no longer to observe Columbus Day, joining a growing number of other communities nationwide in celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day.

Maulian Dana, a Penobscot woman from Indian Island who has led opposition to the use of the mascot name “Indians” at Skowhegan Area High School, said she welcomes the change of the day’s celebration.

“I am very excited and encouraged by the Maine communities such as Starks replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day,” Dana said. “This goes beyond the name of a holiday. It is sending a message that we are acknowledging and honoring the true history and not celebrating the start of genocidal policies and acts against our people.”

Dana, who is the daughter of Barry Dana, of Solon, one-time chief of the Penobscot Nation, added that the new celebration is a step toward greater unity and understanding between racial groups, “which is something America really needs right now.”

The Starks Historical Society and the Starks Enrichment and Education Society are sponsoring events including a tour of a Native American planting field, a potluck supper and a presentation by Ashley Smith, an instructor in Native American studies and environmental justice at Hampshire College. The public is invited.


Visitors are asked to assemble at 2:30 p.m. Monday at the Starks Community Center at 57 Anson Road to drop off items for a potluck supper and then to proceed to Sweetland Farm on Sandy River Road.

From 3 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. there will be welcoming ceremonies and a tour of a Native American planting field at the farm, including a demonstration of The Three Sisters method of planting corn, dry beans and squash.

A potluck dinner is scheduled for 5 p.m., to be followed from 6 to 7:30 p.m. by an evening presentation and panel discussion.

Smith, a 2004 graduate of Madison Area Memorial High School and of Franco-Wabanaki descent, is scheduled to give a brief history of Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day, along with a presentation she calls “Norridgewock Village: History, Memory, Continuity.”

Smith also will lead a panel discussion with presenters Karyn Marden, a woman of Abenaki and Micmac descent; Ann Pollard-Ranco, of Penobscot, Abenaki, Maliseet and Cherokee descent; and Kathy Pollard, of Cherokee descent, as they give a tour of the nonprofit Gedakina‘s planting field at Jay Robinson’s Sweetland Farm on Sandy River Road.

Smith’s ancestors are from the Kennebec Valley and surrounding regions, according to promotional material. She completed her bachelor’s degree in anthropology and French studies at Wheaton College in 2008. As a doctoral student in anthropology and American Indian and indigenous studies at Cornell University, she has worked with local Wabanaki and non-Indian communities to learn about the history, memory, and ongoing relationships that people have with the Wabanaki village of Nanrantsouak, or Norridgewock.


The Portland City Council voted unanimously in mid-September to designate the second Monday in October — Columbus Day — as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Belfast was the first Maine town to change celebrations in 2015. Bangor and Orono also made the change this year. The Brunswick Town Council also voted 8-1 to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Native Americans and their supporters say to honor the Italian explorer who “discovered” America is to celebrate genocide and the intended extermination of the people who were already living here when Columbus arrived.

Since 1990, the second Monday in October has been celebrated as Native American Day in South Dakota. In 1992 Columbus Day was dropped in Berkeley, California, and Indigenous People’s Day was celebrated instead. Many American cities from coast to coast have followed suit over the past few years.

Columbus Day was made official by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367


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