This is the fifth attempt to establish a statewide Indigenous People’s Day in Montana. Sen. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula, introduced and sponsored the current version of the proposal. Morigeau said the bill would allow for a chance to help correct the harsh history of the state’s relationship with Indigenous people. Although Columbus has been celebrated for decades as an explorer who discovered America, historical accounts have increasingly revealed a more complex historical narrative. Multiple states and cities across the country have officially replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. “Instead of having a day that celebrates a man who murdered, raped, and exterminated innocent Native people, I want a day that acknowledges the rich cultural heritage of all Indigenous people in our state,” Morigeau said in a text message to ICT and Montana Free Press. “A day that recognizes the relationships we’ve all forged together because, at the end of the day, we are all Indigenous from somewhere.” Morigeau said the bill is an attempt to help Montanans better understand the tribes and cultures that are so iconic to the state. “I’m asking you to recognize the full breadth of history,” Morigeau said in his opening statement to the committee Wednesday. “To be inclusive and to include everyone in this room, in these hallways and in this state. To talk about the wrongs in our history, to write our next chapter together, to reject selective history and recognize the good, the bad and the ugly so that we can learn and do better as a society.”
My bill to establish Indigenous People’s Day and remove Columbus Day was delivered today for introduction. Could this be the year that Montana finally stops celebrating one of histories worst monsters?#indigenous #IndigenousPeoplesDay #montana #mtleg #mtpol #mtvalues pic.twitter.com/wO73xt8w0w— Shane Morigeau (@shanemorigeau) January 7, 2023
Marsha Small, a co-founder of Indigenous Peoples Day of Montana, an organization that provides advocacy and education on the significance of the holiday, drove the effort for the past eight years. Small began the battle to establish Indigenous Peoples Day in 2015 in Bozeman. In 2016, the city formally recognized the holiday in place of Columbus Day. Small’s drive to get the bill into law is motivated by accuracy and education. “We thought that we could have a day in Montana to introduce people to both sides of the aisle,” Small said. “To get people to know each other on more of a respectful dialogue, to get to know people from their identities, their ancestral lineages.” If the bill passes, Montana would become the latest state to commemorate Indigenous Peoples Day, following at least 14 states and 130 cities nationwide. Several cities and communities in the state have already recognized Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day, including Missoula, Bozeman, and tribal governments. Montana is home to seven tribal reservations and 12 tribes, including the Blackfeet, Salish, Kootenai, Crow, Northern Cheyenne, Assiniboine, Little Shell Band of Chippewa, Gros Ventre, Sioux, Plains Cree, Pend d’Oreille and Chippewa.
I believe with a room full of powerful & impactful testimony from native folks from all eight nations, even with a super majority, we can get it passed this year, the whole state is watching the anti-native bills, personal testimony will pass your bill this year, I'll organize— Steven-Bear TwoTeeth (@TwoteethKelli) January 8, 2023
MTFP and ICT have hired JoVonne Wagner, Blackfeet, to increase coverage of the Montana Legislature’s American Indian Caucus.
JoVonne Wagner is a member of the Blackfeet Nation located in Northwestern Montana. She was born and raised on the reservation, where she says she experienced and lived through all the amazing things about her home, but also witnessed all the negative aspects of rez life. Wagner is an alumni of NPR’S Next Generation Radio. JoVonne interned for Buffalo’s Fire and she recently graduated from the University of Montana School of Journalism
Note: This story originally appeared on Montana Free Press. It is published under a Creative Commons license.
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