Haverhill City Council Backs Keeping Statue of Hannah Duston at GAR Park

Hannah Duston monument at GAR Park, Haverhill.

(See related content: “Hannah Duston and the Mysterious, Mostly Missing Monument.”)

Haverhill’s statue of Hannah Duston will remain at GAR Park for the time being.

Recent waves of protest against statues and monuments across the country—which some call symbols of white supremacy and racism—prompted local resident Judy Matthews Tuesday to ask the Haverhill City Council to consider removing the statue of the Puritan. Matthews read from a statement by the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness.

“MCNAA believes that the statue is harmful to the community due to its perpetuation of racial stereotypes and its presence as a symbol that continues to illustrate the structural racism that has been a foundation of the United States since its founding,” she said.

The statue, erected in 1879, commemorates her escape from the Abenaki tribe who had taken her prisoner and is engraved with the phrase “pursued by savages.” Matthews went on to say that offensive symbols, such as the Hannah Dustin statue, perpetuate the idea of warlike Indians.

While appreciative of her comments, most councilors didn’t agree. Among them was Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien.

“I don’t think we can fix what happened when people came to the United States and settled here. Right now, we are in the middle of some really drastic changes. There are going to be cultural differences and I’m not sure that we, at this time, should pursue the Hannah Dustin situation,” O’Brien said.

The rest of the Council agreed the statue should remain for the time being, with President Melinda E. Barrett calling it a complicated story and Councilor Michael S. McGonagle saying he sees the statue as “a symbol of perseverance and survival.”

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