Joint Haverhill Committee Wednesday to Consider Future of Downtown Statue of Hannah Duston

Haverhill Police and Department of Public Works assess vandalism damage to the Hannah Duston statue in GAR Park in late August, 2020. (WHAV News photograph.)

The public has opportunities to shape policy this week as various Haverhill boards meet. In the interest of transparency in government, WHAV provides this list of upcoming meetings every week.

The future of the statue of Hannah Duston at Grand Army of the Republic Park in downtown Haverhill will be heard Wednesday night. when two city boards discuss the matter.

The Haverhill City Council’s Natural Resources and Public Property Committee and the Haverhill Historic Commission plan to discuss the recently controversial monument Wednesday, Oct. 7, 6 p.m., both online and in the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. City Council Chambers, room 202, Haverhill City Hall.

The statue, erected in 1879, was the focus of both support and opposition during the past summer with pleas to have the monument removed, petitions to retain it and several acts of vandalism.

Resident Judy Matthews called on the City Council at the beginning of to remove the statue of the Puritan. Matthews read from a statement by the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness saying the statue perpetuates “racial stereotypes.” City councilors also heard a second plea at the end of July from Benjamin Roy who said “Hannah Duston murdered several indigenous men, women and children in their sleep.”

Resident Dee Jacobs O’Neil launched an online petition, advocating for keeping the statue where it is. The petition, which has garnered more than 1,600 signatures, calls Hannah Duston “an important piece of history and resilience.” It proposes the descriptive plaque be removed and replaced with “historical data that is culturally sensitive.”

Last month, Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini called for compromise.

“I think the Hannah Duston statue only says half the story. I want something that tells the other half of the story—the story of the Native Americans who used to live here. This was their land. I want the story of what happened to those Native Americans,” he said.

The statue had to be cleaned in late August when one or more vandals struck it with red paint.

In other public meetings this week:

Tuesday, Oct. 6

Haverhill Board of Assessors meets to discuss excise tax abatements and other topics, Tuesday, Oct. 6, from 9-10 a.m., in the Assessor’s office, room 115, Haverhill City Hall.

Haverhill City Council is having a public hearing to decide whether to grant a special permit to build 24 apartments at 66 Emerson St. (See separate story.) Councilors will also discuss lowest cost fiber optic internet, downtown parking plans and other topics Tuesday, Oct. 6, 7 p.m., in the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. City Council Chambers, room 202, Haverhill City Hall, 4 Summer St. As a public service, 97.9 WHAV plans to broadcast the meeting live.

Wednesday, Oct. 7

Haverhill Board of Health is having an emergency meeting remotely to accept the minutes of its last meeting and decide policy for youth sports at hockey rinks. The Board meets Wednesday, Oct. 7, 3 p.m., via Zoom. A meeting link was not posted by Monday night.

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