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With Columbus Day approaching, debate over Indigenous Peoples' Day in Montana continues

Name change stalled in 2019 Legislature
Posted at 9:29 AM, Oct 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-13 11:29:33-04

With Columbus Day around the corner, more areas are pushing aside recognition of the explorer in favor of honoring Native Americans with Indigenous Peoples' Day.

A similar effort stalled in the 2019 Montana Legislature, but supporters aren't giving up.

"It starts with who we elect, but I also think it starts with people being willing and open and willing to discuss with each other and being open and honest with each other about what this person (Christopher Columbus) did, and who he was," said Democratic Rep. Shane Morigeau of Missoula, who sponsored the bill to change the holiday.

"And realizing that it does have deep implications for people of color. For people in this state, especially when we have over 7 percent of Indian population in this state. Columbus and what he means to Indigenous people and what he did to indigenous people. It's not who we are in Montana," Morigeau said Friday.

Columbus Day, is a federally recognized holiday, the second Monday of October, commemorating Christopher Columbus' arrival to the Americas on Oct.12, 1492.

This holiday is controversial to some, because of the European settlement in the Americas. Some Native American lawmakers say that celebrating Columbus is celebrating someone who brutalized and demeaned their people when he came to America more than 500 years ago.

A number of states including North Carolina, Alaska, South Dakota, Oregon and Minnesota have shifted to reorienting the holiday by renaming it.

In February, the Montana House endorsed 62-38 Morigeau's bill to make Indigenous Peoples’ Day a state holiday on the same day as Columbus Day. Columbus Day would remain a federal holiday.

It then went to the Senate, where it was heard in the Senate State Administration Committee on March 13.

Shortly after the committee tabled it, killing the bill on April 1. Dead bills can be resurrected in future legislative sessions.

Some cities in Montana have already taking action. Missoula and Bozeman have already changed the day, to Indigenous people day and Morigeau said he hopes the trend will continue.