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A bill that would replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day failed to move forward in the Montana Senate.
Montana Public Radio’s Ellis Juhlin reports.
After the bill brought by State Sen. Shane Morigeau (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation/D-MT) was tabled in committee its supporters attempted a legislative maneuver to bring it to the Senate floor for debate, but that was also opposed.
State Sen. Dan Salomon (R-MT) said the bill’s sponsor killed the bill himself with his description of Christopher Columbus during committee testimony.
“He starts off with and I think I can quote with accusing Columbus of rape beheading amputations, slicing torsos into sex trafficking, you can imagine where this hearing went in a hurry. I have never, in my experience, been so mad.”
Sen. Morigeau, who is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, responded to Salomon’s criticism on the Senate floor saying he couldn’t talk about Columbus, without including that information.
“The committee killed the bill, not me. And I don’t know how you have a discussion about someone who was identified historically, during this time, to have done things that were not part of the norm, without actually talking about those things.”
Historical accounts, including Encyclopedia Britannica, “Columbus’ men pillaged villages to support themselves and enslaved large numbers of indigenous people for labor, sex, and sale in Europe.”
Some Senators opposed to the bill said Columbus’ contribution to western and nautical history shouldn’t be overlooked.
The bill to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s day had dozens of supporters and no opponents during its committee hearing.
Similar policies introduced in the Montana Legislature have failed in every session over the last eight years.
Celebrations are taking place in Alaska in honor of Elizabeth Peratrovich, the Lingít woman whose speech before the legislature is credited with helping to pass the nation’s first anti-discrimination law.
That was in 1945, nearly 80 years ago, as Rhonda McBride from our flagship station KNBA reports.
The turning point came, when she spoke out against a lawmaker who asked why people barely out of savagery should be considered equal.
“I would not have expected, that I who am who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights.”
Those are the words written and performed by actress and playwright Diane Benson, who used newspaper and witness accounts, to reconstruct Peratrovich’s speech before the Alaska Territorial Legislature, just before the law was passed.
“Just reading it just kind of send shivers you know, through your body just at how well-spoken she was and how she basically called out people that didn’t want to vote in favor for the law and did so, so elegantly.”
Betsy Peratrovich said she never knew her grandmother Elizabeth, who died of breast cancer just before she was born, not long after her famous speech.
“Our people need heroes, and we were not permitted to have them for many years.”
But today, Peratrovich says, the story of her grandmother and her husband Roy – and their fight for civil rights – is embraced by a new generation of Alaska Natives, because it opened the door to learning more about a time in history, when there were signs in front of restaurants that said, “No dogs. No Natives,” discrimination that became illegal on this day in 1945.
First Nations Development Institute announced Wednesday a cohort of 30 beginning Native farmers and ranchers chosen to take part in a more than two-year program to help build their businesses and strengthen land management.
The program’s goal is to boost the local and regional food supply chain in Indian Country.
The individuals represent tribes from six states.
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