NATICK – Inside the Natick Post Office is a mural painted on a wall where customers wait in line to mail their packages.
Created in 1937 as part of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration, the mural depicts Puritan missionary John Eliot extending a Bible to three Native Americans, each in chains, with their arms behind their backs. Next to the Native Americans is another white man, holding a rifle.
It’s one of two images in town receiving increased scrutiny as the country grapples with racial prejudice in a time of George Floyd’s death and the health and economic disparities laid bare by the coronavirus pandemic.
The other image is the town seal, created in 1951 to commemorate Natick’s 300th anniversary. It depicts a white man standing in front of three Algonquian people who are scantily dressed, and seated cross-legged.
Both images are an interpretation of Natick’s “Praying Indians,” converted to Christianity by English Puritans in the 1600s.
Several historians, an academic and residents active in local affairs say it’s time that Natick have open and honest conversations about these images. All agree those conversations must focus on a central question: What historical message does the town want to tell?
“Now is definitely the time to be having these conversations,” said Niki Lefebvre, director of the Natick Historical Society.