Controversial Haverhill Statue Vandalized, Sparking Discussion About Changes

A statue memorializing Hannah Duston, a 17th-century woman who killed and scalped 10 Native Americans who kidnapped her, has long drawn controversy in Haverhill, Massachusetts; some have proposed removing a hatchet from her hand and an engraved reference to "savages"

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A controversial statue that has long captured the ire of Native Americans who deem it offensive was vandalized over the holiday weekend, marking the latest effort to deface the monument in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

The statue depicting 17th-century Colonial woman Hannah Duston has stood in Grand Army Park for more than 100 years.

Duston was kidnapped by Native Americans in 1697 and brought to what is now New Hampshire. She escaped after killing — and scalping — 10 of her captors.

The sculpture, which has been vandalized twice this year, depicts Duston holding a hatchet in her right hand. The base of the statue is engraved with the word "savages," a racially pejorative term for Native Americans.

"Her image is misunderstood," said Diane Dustin Itasaka, an eighth-generation descendant of Duston. "We see her image as someone — most of us in the community — as someone who survived."

Itasaka said over the years, the city has discussed relocating the statue, but a nearby museum rejected it, fearing it would attract vandals. Other proposals have included altering the statue by removing the hatchet and the word "savages."

Itasaka said she would be open to those options, noting that she understands why the statue is offensive to many Native Americans.

"The bottom line is nobody should vandalize anything," said Dan Speers, chair of the Haverhill Native American Commemorative Task Force.

Speers doesn't want the statue in the park, but said he is also open to altering the monument.

"We're talking about changing the plaques, removing the hatchet and possibly incorporating something that Native Americans refer to as a truth circle," he said.

The mayor's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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