Harlem Replaces Columbus Day With Indigenous Peoples Day

By Associated Press, Wire Service ContentOct. 7, 2019, at 12:15 p.m.

BILLINGS, MONT. (AP) — Harlem’s city council has voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.

The Billings Gazette reports Harlem passed a resolution on Sept. 9 to join Missoula, Bozeman and Helena as Montana cities that have changed the name of the federal holiday that will be marked next Monday.

Harlem is located just outside the Fort Belknap Reservation.

Columbus Day recognizes Christopher Columbus, whose 1492 voyage spurred European colonization of the Americas. Native Americans say celebrating Columbus ignores the atrocities and violence inflicted on their ancestors.

Missoula and Bozeman adopted Indigenous Peoples Day in 2016 and the Helena City Commission followed in June 2019.

The Montana House passed a bill in 2019 to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day statewide, but it died in a Senate committee.


Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Helena Celebrates 1st Official Indigenous Peoples Day

By: John RileyPosted at 5:07 PM, Oct 14, 2019 and last updated 9:47 PM, Oct 14, 2019

The second Monday of October is the federally recognized holiday of Columbus Day.

However, this year marks the first official Indigenous Peoples Day in Helena.

People gathered at the steps of the City-County Building for the occasion and to show their support for the change.

The Helena City Commission unanimously passed a resolution in June to change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day.

Speakers at the event said today is about celebrating indigenous people and showing native children that their heritage matters.

“We, the indigenous people, are the foundation of this country,” said Helena resident Roberta Duckhead Kittson Nyomo. “It is time that we need to be recognized for everything that we have done for this country.”

Nyomo said she is so happy and proud that this day has finally come.

“When I was in high school, a teacher told me that Montana would never recognize an indigenous people’s day, what he called Indian day,” said Nyomo. “I told him, ‘One day we will have our day.’ That’s the reason why I’m standing here today. No only to prove to my teacher that he is wrong, but to prove that we do matter.”

Missoula, Bozeman and Harlem are joining the Queen City in celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day this year.

Governor Steve Bullock also encouraged Montanans to recognize the contributions of indigenous people to the state.

A statement from the Governor’s office read, “Today, we celebrate and respect both the historical and current contributions indigenous people have made to the state of Montana. We must also recognize and pay homage to the indigenous communities and culture that have been damaged or lost throughout history. Today is an opportunity to learn from our past, tell an accurate story about the experiences and resiliency of indigenous people in Montana, and rededicate ourselves to education and justice.”

The Montana House endorsed a bill, 62 to 38, by Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula, to make Indigenous Peoples Day a state holiday in place of Columbus Day.

However the Senate State Administration Committee tabled the bill, killing it.

The 2019 Montana Legislature did pass multiple bills addressing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, making is so the flags of tribal nations were permanently displayed at the state capitol and Providing Montana Tribal Colleges with first-ever resources to increase access to the HiSet exam.

Three highways were also dedicated to three extraordinary Montanans of Native American decent: Louise Charles Charlo, Minne Spotted-Wolf and Dolly Smith Akers.

Copyright 2020 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Bullock Columbus Day statement urges residents to honor Indigenous people

Phil Drake Great Falls Tribune Oct. 14, 2019

HELENA – Gov. Steve Bullock released a statement on Monday’s Columbus Day holiday encouraging Montanans to honor the contributions indigenous people have made to the state.

“Today, we celebrate and respect both the historical and current contributions indigenous people have made to the state of Montana,” Bullock stated. “We must also recognize and pay homage to the indigenous communities and culture that have been damaged or lost throughout history.”

“Today is an opportunity to learn from our past, tell an accurate story about the experiences and resiliency of indigenous people in Montana, and rededicate ourselves to education and justice,” he wrote.

Rep. Marvin Weatherwax, D-Browning, seated left, joins Gov. Steve Bullock and others earlier this year in a ceremonial signing of bills.

Bullock’s comments rekindle a debate which often turned emotional in the 2019 legislative session in which lawmakers discussed renaming Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day in Montana.

House Bill 219 sponsored by Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula, was defeated 5-3 by the state Senate Administration Committee after it passed the House 62-35 in February. An attempt in the 2017 legislative session to change Columbus Day failed as well. During that session, lawmakers considered renaming it Montana Heritage Day.

One Native American lawmaker said on the House floor’s 2019 discussion that Columbus Day celebrates a man who killed and tortured Native American people and compared it to having a holiday that would celebrate Nazi Germany.

Bullock, who noted his administration testified in support of Morigeau’s bill to change the name from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, said Monday was an opportunity to learn from the past and “rededicate ourselves to education and justice.”

Morigeau said after the bill died in the senate committee that he would continue efforts to get the proposal passed. He said Indigenous Peoples’ Day would have let Montanans honor shared successes and challenges “rather than a man who has a legacy of committing atrocities against innocent people.”

Columbus Day, observed the second Monday in October, has been a federal holiday since 1937 and is one of 10 federal holidays recognized nationwide by the U.S. government. It commemorates the arrival of the Christopher Columbus in the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492.

At least eight states, including neighboring South Dakota, 10 universities and more than 130 cities in 34 states now observe Indigenous Peoples Day as an alternative to the federally recognized Columbus Day, USA Today reported. Critics say Columbus Day glorifies the mistreatment and colonization of Native Americans.

While it has not been recognized on a state level, there are some observances in Montana. Missoula and Bozeman adopted Indigenous Peoples Day in 2016 and the Helena City Commission followed in June and there was an observance Monday.

Harlem’s city council recently voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.

Morigeau said he had received calls Monday from people asking  for guidance on bringing the subject forward once again.

“It’s good we are talking about the real story and people are starting to discuss some of the horrific things he did as a person,” he said of Columbus, adding adopting an Indigenous Peoples Day would let Montana come together and heal.

He said many people do not know about the cruelty of Columbus and described his treatment of indigenous people as “subhuman.”

“People tend to make up things from history that have been whitewashed over the years,” he said, noting Columbus was in the sex trade of indigenous women and committed mass murders against many, not only of native Americans.

“He killed people as if they meant nothing,” Morigeau said, adding later it was “borderline sacrilegious to honor somebody who has done so many horrible things.”

He described discussions during previous legislative sessions as “respectful.”

“People were genuinely open,” Morigeau said.  

However, he said he did get some calls from out-of-state Columbus Day supporters in 2019 asking what he had against Italians? He said he had nothing against Italians, but noted Columbus killed indigenous people.

Bullock noted he joined the largest American Indian Caucus in the state’s legislative history to sign bills into law to benefit Tribal nations and American Indian communities. 

This included five bills to address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic, permanently displaying the flags of the eight Tribal nations on the State Capitol grounds, sponsored by Rep. Marvin Weatherwax, D-Browning; extending the Montana Indian Language Preservation Program, sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, and honoring Native Americans through the dedication of highway signs, sponsored by Rep. Jade Bahr, D-Billings, Rep. Marvin Weatherwax, D-Browning and Rep. Bridget Smith, D-Wolf Point.

Morigeau is running for state Auditor in 2020, but said he would support efforts to pass an Indigenous Peoples Day bill during the 2021 legislative session.

“I am not asking people to erase him,” he said. “I just want people to tell the truth about what he did. I think what he did is completely unacceptable and I think most people would agree.”

Reporter Phil Drake is our eye on the state capitol. For tips, suggestions or comment, he can be reached at 406-231-9021 or pdrake@greatfallstribune.com.


MSU recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Montana State University leaders voted Wednesday to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, joining a growing number of universities replacing Columbus Day with a day honoring American Indians and native people around the world.

After the near-unanimous voice vote by 30 campus leaders on the University Council, the council applauded the Native American studies faculty and students who spent months seeking support from the Bozeman City Commission, Student Senate, Faculty Senate and other campus groups.

“It has been a very emotional ride,” said Meg Singer, a graduate student and member of the Navajo tribe. Singer said when the Associated Students of MSU Senate passed a unanimous resolution and student senators voted “yes after yes after yes,” it told her that “people actually understand” what Native Americans have endured.

Marsha Small, a Native American studies adjunct instructor and member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, initiated the effort, said Walter Fleming, Native American studies department chairman.

Recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day is more than merely symbolic, Small said.

“History is not so pretty,” she said. Celebrating Columbus as a hero and discoverer of America is false, she said. Children and grandchildren must not be taught that he was a hero, she said, but a slave trader who committed atrocious acts and unleashed a “holocaust” on indigenous peoples.

Matt Herman, associate professor of Native American studies, said he is excited and proud that MSU is one of the first universities to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day. At Brown University, Herman said, the proposal split the Rhode Island campus and community and become quite contentious.

Others recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day include the University of California at Berkeley, University of Oklahoma, Minneapolis, Seattle and Alaska, the New York Times reported.

Randy Babbitt, physics professor and Faculty Senate chair, said the MSU faculty had endorsed it unanimously. Bob Hawks, former Bozeman major and state senator, called the recognition “long overdue.”

President Waded Cruzado said traditionally the university has swapped Columbus Day, the second Monday in October, with the Friday after Thanksgiving, so employees and students get a four-day Thanksgiving break, and that practice would not change.

Tracy Ellig, MSU spokesman, who suggested voting immediately rather than waiting a month, said Indigenous Peoples’ Day would likely be recognized with campus events, much like celebrations held on American Indian Day in September.

The University Council resolution says that the Montana Constitution recognizes the cultural heritage of indigenous people and education to preserve their culture, that as a land-grant university MSU is committed to equality for all, and it “values the history, thought, culture and technology that indigenous peoples have contributed.” The resolution contains no mention of Columbus or atrocities.

The lone no vote on the resolution came from Sylvia Sparkman, chair of MSU’s Staff Council, which represents hundreds of employees, from secretaries to clerks, laborers, accountants, doctors and attorneys.

The Staff Council is fine with the idea of recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day in principle, she said, but it was divided 7-6 on the resolution. That was not because they were being racist, uncooperative or unsympathetic, she said, but because of the way the resolution would be implemented, by replacing Columbus Day and “replacing one heritage with another.”


We’re starting a 501c3!

The team at Indigenous Peoples Day Montana is excited to announce that we are forming a 501c3 in order to support our work promoting Indigenous Peoples Day around the state.

“As the mayor of Bozeman, I proclaim that the city of Bozeman supports the contributions of American Indians to our community, economy and rich culture by observing and celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day,” Carson Taylor, former Mayor of Bozeman Montana