NEWBURYPORT — The Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People honored the city with the gift of a tribal flag this week for Newburyport’s recent adoption of a resolution recognizing the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

In a letter to Mayor Donna Holaday and the city, Sag8moskwa — or female head speaker — Denise Pouliot and Sag8mo — or chief — Paul Pouliot said that in recognition of November as Native American Indian Heritage Month, they “are extending our heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to the cities and towns within our tribal homelands that have adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day to replace Columbus Day.”

On Tuesday, Holaday hosted a small ceremony to share the news and raise the flag on the pole at City Hall.

She was joined by Kristine Malpica, executive director of Imagine Studios in Amesbury; Grandmother Chickee Red Dawn, a Wabanaki representative; John Price, a member of the Narragansett Tribe; and the Rev. Rebecca Bryan, minister of the First Religious Society, Unitarian Universalist Church and a member of the city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Alliance.

Eight third- and fourth-graders from River Valley Charter School and teacher Lynne Taylor also attended.

In October 2020, these same students presented the mayor with letters, calling on the city to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

These letters, as well as efforts by a group at First Religious Society and the city’s DEI Alliance, led the City Council to officially adopt an Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution in September.

“Really, it’s you (the students) that made this possible today with your letters and all of your courageous words in support of positive change,” Malpica said Tuesday. “We recognize our youth as the future of our city.”

Malpica thanked the Pouliots for gifting the city a tribal flag. She also took time to acknowledge that this land belongs to the Pawtucket and Pennacook Peoples whose descendants include the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People.

“While we recognize this is inefficient to rectify the ongoing violations of territorial rights and sacred sites of these and other Indigenous homelands, we hope that today marks a new chapter in relations between native peoples and the city of Newburyport,” she said.

In their letter to the city, the Pouliots said the hope is for the flag to be flown on Indigenous Peoples’ Day and at any other other time the city deems appropriate.

“The city of Newburyport can keep this flag and use it regularly in recognition of the original people, the Aln8bak (human beings) that occupied and stewarded N’dakinna — these lands, waterways, flora and fauna for over 13,000 years,” the Pouliots wrote.

The mayor also read the following description of the tribal flag as provided by the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People:

“The flag background is dark green to represent the white pines of the forest. The images are in white or in the Abenaki language ‘W8bi,’ which is the root word for the Wabanaki — the ‘People of the Dawnland.’

“The central image is a white pine tree, which is a direct reference to the Cowasuck Band — ‘The People of the White Pines.’ The pine tree has three roots, which symbolize the three major watersheds of the Connecticut, Merrimack and Piscataqua rivers.

The background image is the ‘Raising Sun,’ which is another reference to the Wabanaki Confederation. The sun has 13 rays that symbolizes the Indigenous year cycle of 13 moons.

“The horizontal line represents the land between the sky and the waters. The waters are shown as the waving line. The two ‘curls’ represent ‘canoes’ that we used on our journeys in life. One reflects the other and, in this combination, it becomes a ‘Wisdom Curl’ or reference to the ‘Keepers of Knowledge.’

“The four corner designs are modified Wisdom Curls that represent family units — families living in harmony, peace and in balance throughout N’dakinna — ‘Our Homelands.’”

Staff reporter Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.

Staff reporter Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.

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