I read with interest of the ceremony planned by the Belfast Cemetery and Belfast Historical Society to honor John Cochran (1749-1839) with a plaque for his participation in the Boston Tea Party of 1773.

Cochran is described in the article as among the “32 Original Proprietors of Belfast,” occupying land deeded to him presumably by Massachusetts colonial authorities. This strikes me as the kind of selective history we need to be alert to and correct, so that inaccurate concepts are not perpetuated for kids coming up. Without context, such a plaque is akin to a Confederate monument that elevates someone as a hero, with no acknowledgment of that person’s actual situation.

Colonial-era proprietors in the territory of Maine can hardly be described as “original” unless your history begins with white European men. By the time Cochran took possession of his Belfast land-grant c. 1770, that land had been arbitrarily seized, or fraudulently traded for, from its Wabanaki inhabitants. These, the original people, stood their ground valiantly to protect their beloved territory and kin for as long as they could. Afterward, Cochran no doubt profited handsomely from the stands of timber he now “owned.”

So as the commemorative plaque is placed, let it be with some humility, acknowledging the full historical context of the time. And let us prioritize justice for the millions of people today who continue to be taxed without representation! As David Leonhardt recently noted in the Sept. 18 edition of The New York Times, the District of Columbia has more residents than Vermont or Wyoming, and Puerto Rico has more residents (also U.S. citizens) than 20 states do. Neither has a senator, and D.C.’s representative is non-voting.

Diane Oltarzewski