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Proposed bill replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day

A bill to replace Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day at the state level passed out of the State Government Committee and will be voted on by the full House in the future.
Image by Alice Bennett
Gov. Tim Walz signed the bill into law on Thursday.

A bill to change Christopher Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day at the state level was voted 8-5 on March 15 to move the legislation out of the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee to be voted on by the full House.

Indigenous people have called for the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day, which celebrates aspects of Native American culture and history.

At least 10 states have passed laws that celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, while more celebrate the day via a governor’s proclamation. Gov. Tim Walz has signed a proclamation every year since coming into office in 2019. While those proclamations only lasted one day, this bill would be a permanent change at the state level.

The bill would require public schools to dedicate one hour of the school day to teach students about Indigenous culture. Examples in the bill’s language include the history of treaties, Indigenous languages or contributions of Indigenous people to American culture, literature and society, among other areas of teaching.

Rep. Heather Keeler, the author of the bill and who is part of the Ihanktonwan and Eastern Shoshone tribes, is still finalizing dates with leadership to settle a day to be voted on by the full house.

Keeler said she was motivated by her constituents to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day at the state level after she made the switch in her hometown of Moorhead.

“Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a bill is one thing, but the movement behind it to be visible and to talk about representation in this space is the other component of it,” Keeler said.

The Minnesota Department of Education is in support of this change and teaching students about Indigenous history, said Ashleigh Norris, the communications director for the department, in an email to the Minnesota Daily.

“Our schools are not only places of learning academics, but also understanding how those subjects apply to the world around them and the people around them. Indigenous culture and language is an integral part of our country’s past, present and future,” Norris said.

What it means to change the holiday
American Indian Studies professor Dr. Gabriela Spears-Rico, a member of the Pirinda Indigenous community in Mexico, said the education portion of this bill would help kids be aware of Indigenous culture. She told stories about her daughter, who is enrolled in the Red Lake Nation and is also a Dakota descendant, hearing degrading comments about Indigenous people at school and having to “debrief at home.”

“[The bill] is something that would make us feel more included and welcome here,” Spears-Rico said. “It would help reverse some of some of those negative encounters that she’s had to have that are related to her identity and her existence as a Native person.”

Keeler said she does not see this bill as a way to take away from Italian culture, but instead a way to talk about and celebrate Indigenous peoples and cultures.

“Bills like this lift up the beauty in who we are as an Indigenous community,” Keeler said.

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  • Meat Eater
    Apr 12, 2022 at 8:31 pm

    When they teach about Indigenous people will they explain how the Ojibwe (Chippewa/Saulteau/Annishinaabe/ …)slaughtered the Sioux (Lakota/Dakota/ …) and stole their land after coming to Minnesota in the early 1700’s?