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Montana 2021 Legislature

Montana Senate Consider Indigenous Peoples' Day Proposals

MT_Capitol_exterior_1350.jpg
Matt Volz
/
Kaiser Health News
The Montana Capitol on Jan. 29 in Helena, Montana.

Montana lawmakers Wednesday heard two bills seeking to establish Indigenous People’s Day in October.

Senate Bill 146, brought by Sen. Shane Morigeau, a Democrat from Missoula, would replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day.

Senate Bill 94, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Susan Webber from Browning, would also establish Indigenous People’s Day, but does not remove Columbus Day.

More support was shown for the proposal to remove Columbus Day. Even the other bill’s sponsor said she preferred it.

But many proponents, including Jordan Thompson, a Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal member, spoke on behalf of both bills.

"I believe that the first bill we heard today was kind of like inviting everyone to the same backyard for a barbecue. This one's more like waving at each other with a fence in between. So we support it, but I'd much rather be at the barbecue," Thompson said.

Proponents of the bills spoke to the importance of celebrating what they called true US history, acknowledging all of Montana’s citizens, and the harm of celebrating Christopher Columbus, whose acts of genocide and crimes against Native Americans are well documented.

No one opposed either bill during the hearing.

Similar legislation failed in 2017 and 2019. Many proponents said they had voiced support for Indigenous People’s Day during those hearings as well.

No executive action was taken on either bill.

Kaitlyn Nicholas is Yellowstone Public Radio's Report For America Indigenous affairs reporter.