The Boston Athletic Association plans to celebrate the role of Native Americans in the Boston Marathon when the race takes off Oct. 11, the organization said Saturday in response to criticism by some members of the Brookline Select Board for scheduling the race on Indigenous Peoples Day in the town.
The BAA said it will “highlight the Indigenous tradition within the Boston Marathon” and will recognize past Marathon champions who were members of native groups, including Ellison Brown of the Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island, champion of the 1936 and 1939 races, and 1907 champion Thomas Longboat of the Onondaga First Nation.
“We will continue to engage, coordinate, and work with any Indigenous Peoples committees along the Boston Marathon route and have asked the cities and towns to identify groups planning events to help facilitate conversations,” the BAA said in a statement Saturday.
“The BAA has also been working with other organizations who may be impacted by the October date, as identified by city and town officials,” the statement said. “We will continue to apply this spirit of collaboration with any organization, and will fully respect and cooperate with any observances planned in the cities and towns.”
During a Brookline Select Board meeting Tuesday, some members threatened to block the Marathon from coming through town if it did not do more to recognize native groups.
“I really would like to see a more public-facing acknowledgment by the BAA, at a minimum,” said member Raul Fernandez during the meeting. Fernandez said he would vote against the BAA’s permit if the organization did not do more.
In January, the BAA announced that the Marathon, traditionally held on Patriots Day, would take place on Oct. 11, citing coronavirus restrictions. The rescheduled date falls on the holiday that many communities will celebrate as Columbus Day but has been known as Indigenous Peoples Day in Brookline since voters passed a warrant article at Town Meeting in 2017.
Native activists lamented the BAA’s decision on the chosen date, arguing that it will conflict with planned observances for the holiday. Earlier this year in Newton, which also celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day, the Indigenous Peoples Day Newton Committee called on the BAA to pick a new date and gathered 41,000 signatures for an online petition.
The BAA said the Oct. 11 date was chosen “in close coordination and collaboration with the eight cities and towns that comprise the Marathon route.”