Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Bill to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day fails in the Senate

Montana Capitol building in the snow.
Shayee Ragar
UM Legislative News Service
Montana Capitol building in the snow.

A bill that would replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day failed to move forward in the Montana Senate.

After the bill brought by Missoula Democratic Sen. Shane Morigeau was tabled in committee its supporters attempted a legislative maneuver to bring it to the Senate floor for debate, but that was also opposed.

Sen. Dan Salomon, a Republican from Ronan, 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,” Salomon said.

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,” Morigeau said.

Historical accounts including Encyclopedia Britannica, say “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 that Columbus' contribution to Western and nautical history shouldn’t be overlooked.

The bill to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' 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 8 years.

Ellis Juhlin is MTPR's Rocky Mountain Front reporter. Ellis previously worked as a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a reporter at Yellowstone Public Radio. She has a Master's Degree in Ecology from Utah State University. She's an average birder and wants you to keep your cat indoors. She has two dogs, one of which is afraid of birds.
Become a sustaining member for as low as $5/month
Make an annual or one-time donation to support MTPR
Pay an existing pledge or update your payment information