Antiquated law banned Native Americans from Boston until 2005

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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The political world has been abuzz this week with the revelation that Harvard once found it advantageous to consider Massachusetts Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren a minority because of her distant Native American ancestry.

But a look through history reveals that the city of Boston — just across the Charles River from Harvard’s Cambridge — hasn’t always been so kind to American-Indians. In fact, under a law that wasn’t repealed until 2005, Warren — a Native American — technically committed a crime every time she crossed that river.

Even though authorities long refused to enforce the law, there was actually a law on the books dating back to the colonial era banning Native Americans from entering the city.

The law was passed in 1675 out of a fear of a “barbarous crew” that would expose the city’s residents “to mischief.”

In 2004, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino called for doing away with the antiquated law.

“This law has no place in Boston,” Menino said then. “Fortunately this act is no longer enforced. But as long as it remains on the books, this law will tarnish our image. Hatred and discrimination have no place in Boston. Tolerance, equality and respect — these are the attributes of our city.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney signed a law repealing the ban on American-Indians in 2005.

“It is our hope that signing this bill into law will provide some closure to a very painful and old chapter in Massachusetts history,” Romney said then. “This archaic law belongs in the history books, not the law books.”

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Alex Pappas