She has been deceased for nearly 300 years, still Hannah Duston’s statue in Haverhill’s GAR park continues to raise the ire of some local residents who believe it should be taken down.
Tuesday night, for the second time in a month, a Haverhill resident brought an impassioned plea to the City Council to find another home for the statue. Ben Roy requested the mayor and Council reconsider their neutral stance on the subject.
“While there has been much debate over how much we should judge someone who has lived so long ago, there are some things that are not up for debate. Hannah Duston murdered several indigenous men, women and children in their sleep. She then harvested their scalps by cutting them off with a hatchet and traded them in to the Massachusetts state government for a bounty,” he said.
Roy went on to say that by keeping her statue in front of City Hall, Haverhill is continuing to promote a racist version of history. He told the council that 544 people have signed an online petition to have the monument removed.
The statue, erected in 1879, commemorates her escape from the Abenaki tribe who had taken her prisoner and, she said, killed her newborn child. It is engraved with the phrase “pursued by savages.” Earlier this month, the monument was marked by someone who scrawled the words “Haverhill’s own monument to genocide” in chalk on its base.
After Roy finished, the Council agreed that perhaps it was time to take a deeper look at the issue and Councilor John A. Michitson made a proposal to do so.
“When this was first presented a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t really thought about it in depth and since then I have and I’m going to recommend that we send this to Councilor (Thomas J.) Sullivan’s Public Property Committee to reassess the placement of this monument,” Michitson said.
Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien also suggested the mayor’s recently formed Diversity Committee should be brought into the discussion. That committee includes two Native American members.