Joint Committee Meets Again Tonight on the Future of Hannah Duston Statue in Haverhill

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 Hannah Duston statue in Grand Army of the Republic Park in downtown Haverhill receives another airing tonight.

A second joint meeting of the Haverhill City Council’s Natural Resources and Public Property Committee and Haverhill Historic Commission is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m., remotely and in person at the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. City Council Chambers in City Hall. Early last month, officials took testimony for and against retaining the monument. Haverhill resident William Taylor told committee members he most objects to language on the monument’s base.

“I principally object to the public display of the statue’s plaque and, in particular, its usage of the word ‘savages.’ When the word is used to describe indigenous people, as it is on the plaque, it is a racist slur,” he said.

Resident Dee Jacobs O’Neil, who launched an online petition advocating for keeping the statue where it is, told officials she has a different takeaway.

“Nearly 200 years after the event, the statue was erected to commemorate her escape and, for me, it represents family and what lengths a mother would go through to protect her family. She represents strength and resiliency as a woman,” she said.

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini has previously proposed a compromise, where additional messages would be placed in the park to tell the Native American side of the story. The mayor’s position was backed last month by Ralph T. Basiliere, chairman of the new Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Basiliere noted his committee used a similar technique to explain nuances related to the Vietnam War. At the new memorial at Mill Brook Park, there are four educational stations besides the monuments.

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. The recent attention stemmed from an international campaign against symbols of racism after the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer.

In other public meetings this week:

Thursday, Nov. 5

The Washington Street Historic District Commission meets Thursday, Nov. 5, at 5 p.m., at 90 Washington St., first floor. The board hears proposals for window replacements at 62 Washington St. and 105-107 Washington St.; signage at the Fat Greek Restaurant, 15 Washington St.; an awning request at 59 Washington St.; awning lettering at 26 Washington Square; and removal and replacement of stairs at 24 Washington St.

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