Tribe wants BU to change name of Myles Standish dormitory

BOSTON (AP) – A Native American tribe is asking Boston University to change the name of a dormitory that honors Myles Standish, the Pilgrim’s military leader.

The Massachusett tribe in Ponkapoag said Myles Standish Hall should be renamed Wituwamat Memorial Hall after a prominent Native American figure was massacred along with other tribesmen by settlers from the Plymouth Colony in 1623.

Long celebrated by many as a New England folk hero, Myles Standish is remembered by the first peoples of this land for the extreme acts of violence he committed against their ancestors, says a recently launched online petition for request the name change.

According to the history of the tribe, Standish and his men killed Wituwamat and other members of the Neponset Band from the Massachusetts tribe because Standish suspected Wituwamat of plotting against the nascent English colony. Wituwamat was beheaded and his head displayed atop the Plymouth Colony meeting hall as a warning.

The online petition also contends that Standish has no connection with the university or the stately Back Bay area where the dormitory is located. Instead, the dorm takes its name from the building’s origin as the Myles Standish Hotel.

Built in 1925, this elegant brick hotel was located just steps from the Charles River and Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. It was bought by the university in 1949 and converted into dormitories.

Spokesmen for the university did not respond to an email seeking comment on Tuesday.

Travis Franks, postdoctoral associate at the university, argues in an editorial Tuesday for WBUR that changing the name of the dormitory is the next logical step for BU, which is committed to making its campus a “diverse, equitable and inclusive community” .

He says the university has made other laudable efforts, such as recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day as an academic holiday, but notes that Indigenous students, staff and faculty remain “significantly under-represented” on the campus.

“It is therefore imperative that the university partner with the Massachusetts tribe in Ponkapoag and honor their wishes by making Wituwamat Memorial Hall a reality,” Franks writes. “As the first building encountered by many visitors to campus, WMH would be a powerful symbol of the university’s commitment to continuously evolve to reflect its core values.

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