Watertown Group Seeks to Rename the Delta in Watertown Square, Remove Columbus’ Name

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The following announcement was provided by the Pigsgusset Initiative:

On Thursday, Dec. 2nd at 3:30 P.M., members of the Pigsgusset Initiative, a working group of Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment, will deliver petitions to the City Council requesting a name change for the area now called “Columbus Delta.” 

The delivery will be made by Mishy Lesser, Learning Director of Upstander Project and co-founder of the Pigsgusset Initiative, along with other Pigsgusset members and local youth, to the office of the Clerk of the City Council who is responsible for accepting the signatures.

The petitioners are requesting that the City Council begin a process of reconsidering the name of the delta in Watertown Square, whose official name is the Columbus Delta. The goal is to initiate a process that will generate a new name that is more inclusive of all members of our community and the history of the place we all call home.

Eighty years ago, the Selectmen of Watertown voted to name the delta, which today is the public meeting place where hundreds of diverse neighbors often gather for a variety of reasons. Resolution #85, Naming Policy For Squares Or Intersections For Non-veterans, adopted on October 22, 2019 by the Town Council, states that:

“the Town Council understands that said naming may have long-lasting effects and will span future generations whose perceptions and values might change.”

As per the stated resolution, “The Town Council shall have sole authority to remove the naming of any Square or Intersection if, with the passage of time, it determines the public interest is no longer being served.”

After several consultations with City Councilors, members of the Pigsgusset Initiative submitted over 150 signatures to the Town Council in June 2021 only to be informed three months later that the signatures, which were submitted electronically, would not be accepted. Pigsgusset Initiative members started over and now have over 150 paper-and-pen signatures to submit. The response from Watertown residents to the petition has been overwhelmingly positive.

The Pigsgusset Initiative seeks to increase communication and promote collaboration among Watertown residents to undo the erasure of Indigenous Peoples from the place now called Watertown and to promote inclusive historical narratives. For more information about Pigsgusset Initiative: https://watertowncitizens.org/working-groups/pigsgusset-initiative/

For further information about this action contact: Jennifer Wolfrum, jenniferwolfrum13@gmail.com

40 thoughts on “Watertown Group Seeks to Rename the Delta in Watertown Square, Remove Columbus’ Name

  1. I heard the land for Delta was donated by the Knights of Columbas (A Catholic charitable fraternity). If we’re going to rename it, we ought to give the land back !
    This is more WOKE madness. It can be considered as anti-Italian by many and anti-Catholic, since the land was donated by a Catholic Fraternity.
    This is precisely the kind of waste of the Council’s Time that we don’t EVER need.

    • Where did you hear that the Knights of Columbus donated that land to the town? What is your source for that claim? That’s news to me!

    • A quick email to the Watertown Historical Society produced the facts about ownership of the land for the Delta:

      Jennifer,
      The town owns the delta. It has never been owned by the Knights of Columbus. At one point the land was owned for a while by the Metropolitan Park Commission, but Watertown has owned it since 1927.

      It used to be configured very differently and had many buildings – see attached map from 1889 – Barnard Block, Grist Mill, Walker & Pratt Foundry.

      The Watertown Free Public Library has a great local history page. https://www.watertownlib.org/382/Histories-Highlights
      Go to the book “Crossroads on the Charles” and take a look at pages 144, 147, 152 and 169 for more detailed information. The on-line book is also searchable.

      Joyce Kelly
      Historical Society of Watertown

      • Thanks for injecting facts into the discussion. So much for the “Anti-Italian, anti-Catholic” nonsense being spread by Mr. DiMascio. One expects nothing less.

        • Well you can’t let facts get in the way of a good right wing rant!

          It amazes me how many people on this post express their displeasure without the benefit of understanding the facts.

  2. Great, more hand wringing nonsense from woke, virtue signaling, middle aged White women with too much free time on their hands. This town is becoming an embarrassing laughing stock much like Cambridge.

      • Just to be clear, the petition is asking the Town Council to open up a discussion with the community about the name of the delta. We do not have any name selected and we are not attempting to speak for everyone. We are just hoping to encourage Watertown residents to consider who we are honoring and recognizing in our town monuments. We are also hoping to find ways to honor and acknowledge the first peoples of these lands. We see this petition as the beginning of a conversation and we hope that many people will thoughtfully and respectfully join the conversation.

  3. The Chippewa forced the Sioux from their land in a massacre of murder and brutality. The Sioux then raped and pillaged their way through Omaha and Pawnee. If this town square is named after any pre Columbus Native American icons I immediate demand we change this name and stop the idolization of rapists, murderers, mauraders, and those who brutalize other nations.

  4. Does everyone in this “initiative “want to change the history of the town ? If you don’t like the history here go someplace else ! What a waste of councils time …. We have more important issues to address than this nonsense .

  5. Why don’t these 150+ people go back to their ancestral beginnings therefore reversing the indigenous peoples erasure….THESE PEOPLE ARE ABSOLUTE MORONS!!!! KEEP IT COLUMBUS DELTA

  6. Why not go all the way and rename Watertown itself?

    Get rid of Plymouth Rock.

    Take down the statue of Columbus in Boston. Oh wait, someone already beheaded it and Mayor Walsh then got rid of it completely. Never mind.

    But it’s still named Columbus Park. Why?

    The statue of Lincoln and slaves in Boston was already taken down.

    Why is Boston still named Boston? Most people don’t know what it refers to.

    Same with New York.

    As for the statue of Mayor Curley in Boston: he was corrupt and went to prison. Why is that statue still there?

    Why is America named America? The average person does not know. Let’s get rid of it and rename America. Suggestions please. How about naming it Black Lives Matter?

  7. I have to say I am surprised at all the response from the white privileged folk who think a native name would be inappropriate.
    The Knights of Columbus would of course have one take. Another worth reading is this one
    http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2015/01/real-christopher-columbus/

    The naming of any public land should have the input of local residences.
    Unfortunately, It would seem some would rather impose their will onto the rest of us much as they do in Russia and China. I grew up proudly in an area named after the native word for that area.
    I think it would be privilege to hear what the native words for this area would be.

    • Understanding and acknowledging history is not white guilt. Native Americans waged war long before the “white man” came to America. Read some Steven Pinker for me one time my lost dude.

      • Is this the same Steven Pinker who provided some help to his pal Alan Dershowitz in defending their mutual friend Jeffrey Epstein from sex trafficking charges, or is that another person?

        Pre-Columbian Indigenous populations were likely somewhere in the ballpark of 50-100 million, somewhere between 5 and 20 million of whom lived in North America. Low estimates of the Mexican Indigenous population estimates that around 80% of those were killed by disease brought by Europeans (a population crater that took until the late 1800’s to recover), and given that 2.75m Americans identify as Native American we haven’t even come close to recovering to those optimistic numbers. That doesn’t even take into account the cultural destruction wrought against Native Americans, both incidental and intentional, that has taken not only the ancestral lands they used to administer but the practices with which they administered them; Europeans coming to America found empty villages which had been vacated by depopulated tribes and which were full of items they took, with and without the intention to repay their theft, to help establish their colonies, and carefully-maintained farmlands that they monocropped into being unproductive. The negative impacts of any war that Native tribes fought against one another pales in comparison to even the most rosy picture you can paint of European colonization of the Americas.

  8. !!! I’ve lived in Watertown for 43 years and somehow never once heard the Delta called “Columbus Delta” until this article.

  9. I hope that people who are making comments will also take time to read the article that David A referenced. We are not trying to “change the history of the town” (per Mary L) nor are we trying to change the history of the country that we all call home. We are hoping to bring to light the history that has been hidden, denied, mystified and mythologized. The “history” of the area that we now call Watertown started thousands of years ago with tribes of Indigenous people who lived and thrived on these lands. As many historians have noted, it’s important to understand our history so that we can create a future that is welcoming and inclusive of everyone.

    • I hope you’ll take some time to look into the brutalization natives inflicted on other tribes, inclusive of rape, murder, enslavement, and in some cases mass genocide. If you’d like the current citizens of this land to reflect on those who conquered it prior to present day to understand who held it previously, let’s have the full conversation

  10. Sixty-year-old white guy here who was taught in public schools a lot of nonsense about Columbus — mainly the whole myth about his “discovery” and how he proved that the world wasn’t flat. As we brush away long-held beliefs in favor of more factual history, we change our perception of historical figures. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s necessary to get a true picture of our history and nation. I see this process as strengthening America, not tearing it down. I also think it’s important to consider/judge historical figures not by today’s standards but to recognize how their actions/thinking fit into society during their time. In Columbus’ case, many of his actions were reviled by people in his time. He wasn’t a good guy (but he was a great sailor). So let the debate continue. I also want to note that I’m an Italian-American and knocking down a guy from Genoa who sailed for Spain doesn’t offend me in the least. As for what to name that triangle (I too didn’t know it was named for Columbus), I don’t have an opinion. Let’s have a rational discussion on that.

  11. I support the renaming of the Delta. The white man has been very ferocious toward Indigenous Peoples. The white settlers issued bounties on the scalps of Native Americans, right here in Massachusetts. There were atrocities on both sides, but we are living in a different day.
    There are at least 55,000 Indigenous persons living in Massachusetts. They suffer from the intergenerational effects of abuse, erasure, and stigmatization. We in Watertown can offer an olive branch of healing.
    Why not have a calm debate, without invective on either side?

  12. It might be worth mentioning that the Delta didn’t exist until when? Maybe 1910? I seem to remember seeing some old maps/photos showing buildings crowded into that space around then. And the Delta has changed shape at least once since it was created.

    I love that Watertown has preserved this calm island of green in the middle of the convergence of extremely busy streets. Am hoping that when the two veteran maples pass into history, two or three beautiful new specimen trees will be planted there to renew this signature landscape.

    Those two maples are the survivors of a long-lived trio of maples planted back in the 1920’s. In their heyday they were such a welcoming presence in all seasons.

  13. Here we go again with the constant damnation of the “white man”! Whether it be Columbus, Robert E. Lee or any other “white man”, the 21st century revisionists want to rename every building that has their name along with just about every other “white man” who ever, in their minds were devils. Every country, white or non-white, have done dastardly deeds in the course of history but to erase it rather than learn from it is ludicrous. I’ll wager that Malcolm X Square would sound just right for these pompous boors.

    • I believe the question of renaming the area currently described as Columbus Delta is so that we, as an honorable town, can step back from honoring people of questionable integrity and honor the native tribes who once inhabited the area and have historically been given very little respect. Clearly to this day there are many who still have little respect for native peoples. By using a native word for the area we take a small step toward healing this injustice of disrespect of the original people who lived here.
      It’s not a disrespect for white people or white men to respect native people, though there are white people who would have you believe that.

  14. Wow, I’m really shocked and ashamed with some of the attitudes there seem to be in Watertown. I would be happy to get rid of anything that reminds me of the way we have honored Columbus (and I am half Italian). No hero there, in my mind. Not only would I like to see the Delta renamed, I would love to see a statue erected of a Native American. This land was theirs to begin with.

  15. Honor isn’t a zero-sum game. This initiative is an invitation to hear each other, not to shout anyone down.

    Italian immigrants who arrived in this country a century or more ago were discriminated against pretty badly, including right here. Although their descendants now enjoy the benefit of the doubt routinely extended to other descendants of Europeans, we can acknowledge that many of our older Italian-American neighbors’ parents and grandparents had a rough time, without making Columbus out to be something he never was.

    Columbus did have a huge impact, but it was a devastating one for the peoples who had lived in this hemisphere for thousands of years before he “discovered” it. Some descendants of those people are so tired of being spoken of in the past tense and caricatured as cartoon savages that they feel the need to point out that they are still here. (Here’s a beautiful example from a Watertown publisher: https://www.charlesbridge.com/products/we-are-still-here.)

    To honor Italian Americans and remember their history, we don’t need to keep insulting indigenous people by pretending Columbus was a great guy. No one – neither Italian Americans nor descendants of the people who made their homes here before the settler colonial project started – is honored by the rock across Main Street from the CVS inscribed to Columbus, a man who never set foot on the continent of North America, much less in what is now called Watertown. Just ask Italian Americans for Indigenous Peoples Day https://italiansforipd.org/.

    There may have been understandable reasons for the fanciful, heroic stories most of us learned as children about Columbus, myths intended to cement a central, pride-worthy role for Italians in the history of this hemisphere and this country. There is no shortage of positive contributions by Italian Americans to this country’s history and culture. And now we all have the opportunity to understand that borrowing Columbus’ name does not lend honor to this place or pride to any of its inhabitants.

    I’m grateful for this initiative. It offers us a chance for a conversation – in good faith, if we’ll bring it – about what symbols we would like to embrace and what those symbols mean to our neighbors. If we can talk and listen with curiosity, compassion, and respect for each other, we may be able to find ways to truly honor the people who are here now and the struggles of their ancestors, as well as what we can agree is worth aspiring to.

  16. I sense a lot of rancor in many of the comments here, but the petition is simply asking the Town Council to facilitate a conversation about the name of the Delta, a conversation that can include everyone here in our beloved community, a conversation that can feature careful listening, respect, and honest communication, not making assumptions and name-calling.

    I hope we can come together as friends and neighbors to have this conversation, without any of us seeing those with whom we might disagree as enemies or some sort of threatening “other.”

  17. I can’t understand why anything in this country is named after Columbus since he never set foot on this continent, it’s kind of like having somewhere in America named for Napoleon, makes no sense to me. I also have no problem naming the delta after a native American, but that’s not what the initiative is asking, is it? I believe it’s only requesting that the City Council begin a process of reconsidering the name, and that perhaps naming it after a native American could be appropriate, why is this difficult? After all , we kind of stole this area from the Pequossette and the Nonantum tribes did we not? Please correct me if I’m wrong…

  18. I personally don’t care what it’s called. but to the people who limit their outrage at historical atrocities committed up to some arbitrary line of time, who then crusade across all aspects of the country as if the people in existence prior to that point are infallible, could you stop romanticizing your version of First Nation history. It’s no different than those doing so for Columbus.

  19. So if people didn’t know it is named the Columbus Delta, then just drop the name Columbus and SIMPLY call it “The Delta” done deal!

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