Native American Tribe Wants Boston University Dorm Renamed for Leader Massacred by Pilgrims

A Native American tribe is calling on Boston University to rename a dorm in honor of a leading Native American figure who was massacred with other tribal members by Pilgrims in 1623.

The dorm, currently known as Myles Standish Hall, was named after the military leader of the Pilgrims. The Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag recently launched a petition for the building to be renamed Wituwamat Memorial Hall in honor of the leader killed by Plymouth Colony settlers.

"Long celebrated by many as a New England folk hero, Myles Standish is remembered by this lands' first peoples for the extreme acts of violence he committed against their ancestors," the online petition said.

The petition also noted that "the call to change the building's name comes amidst a growing movement to redesign the Massachusetts state seal, which features Standish's arm swinging a sword above the head of a Native American."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Boston University
A Native American tribe is calling on Boston University to rename its dorm after a Native American leader who was massacred by Pilgrims. Boston University sign in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 14, 1981. Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

According to the tribe's history, Standish and his men killed Wituwamat and other members of the Neponset Band of the Massachusett Tribe because Standish suspected Wituwamat of plotting against the fledgling English colony. Wituwamat was beheaded and his head displayed atop Plymouth Colony's meetinghouse as a warning.

The online petition also argued that Standish has no connection to the university or the stately Back Bay neighborhood where the dorm is located. Instead, the dorm takes its name from the building's origin as the Myles Standish Hotel.

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

University spokespeople didn't respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday.

Travis Franks, a postdoctoral associate at the university, argued in a Tuesday op-ed for WBUR that changing the dorm's name is the next logical step for BU, which has committed to making its campus a "diverse, equitable, and inclusive community."

He said the university has made other laudable efforts, such as recognizing Indigenous Peoples' Day as a university holiday, but noted that Native students, staff, and faculty remain "drastically underrepresented" on campus.

"It is imperative, then, that the university partner with the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag and honor their wishes by making Wituwamat Memorial Hall a reality," Franks wrote. "As the first building many visitors to campus encounter, WMH would be a powerful symbol of the university's commitment to continuously evolve to reflect its core values."