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1675 Indian ban puts convention bid at risk

Page 2 of 2 -- That could be the case in Boston in 2008, if the city can pass muster with Unity's board, starting with wiping the antiquated anti-American Indian law from the books. Lopez, Unity's executive director, said Boston's bid would be hurt if the law is still on the books when the group's board meets next month to decide where to hold its 2008 convention.

But Boston could gain an edge if the Legislature repeals it before then, she said. Lopez is on a three-day tour of Boston that ends today. It included tours of hotels, the new Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston, and meetings with local minority journalists and at City Hall.

Dan Lewerenz, president of the Native American Journalists Association and a Unity board member, said Boston is not likely to get his vote if the law stays on the books.

''We're considering what it means for us to endorse a city that officially and effectively bans Native Americans," said Lewerenz, a member of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. ''We know it's not going to be enforced, but in theory, the police could arrest us when we arrive at the airport."

Absent the law, he said, Boston has as good a shot as the other cities.

State Senator Dianne Wilkerson, Democrat of Boston, said she will introduce a measure to repeal the 1675 law in the Senate, while Representative Byron Rushing, also a Boston Democrat, will bring the issue before the House.

Wilkerson said yesterday that the bill could be passed in a week, but there's no guarantee it would be done that fast. ''It would be our goal to have it done immediately," she said. ''After all the work that people have done on this pitch, we would not sit by and allow something like this be the thing that kept us from being the winning bid."

How the law reads

The ban on Indians entering Boston has been on the books since 1675. Two legislators are introducing bills to repeal it, as the city requested.

We find that still there still remains ground of Fear, that unless more effectual Care care be taken, we may be exposed to mischief by some of that Barbarous Crew, or any Strangers not of our Nation, by their coming into, or residing in the Town of Boston. . . . Secondly, That there be a Guard appointed at the end of the said Town towards Roxbury, to hinder the coming in of any Indian, until Application be first made to the Governor, or Council if fitting, and to be . . . remanded back with the same Guard, not to be suffered to lodge in Town, unless in Prison.

Keith Reed can be reached at 

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