Montana Public Radio

Senate Commitee Hears Testimony On 'Indigenous Peoples Day' Bill

Mar 13, 2019

A bill that would rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day in Montana had its first hearing in a Senate committee Wednesday after clearing the House last month.

A steady stream of supporters for House Bill 219 filed into a small room inside the Capitol to testify before the State Administration committee.

Rep. Shane Morigeau from Missoula gave the opening remarks.

"You know Columbus Day is something that I dread every year," Morigeau said. "I dread that the state celebrates somebody who brutalized innocent people."

Morigeau was joined by native and non-native historians, educators, tribes, politicians, environmental and human rights organizations, as well as high school students from the Two Eagle River School in Pablo in urging the committee to pass the bill.

Many speakers testified they did not want to celebrate an individual who left behind a legacy of human-trafficking, slavery and genocide.

A single opponent to the bill spoke at Wednesday's hearing: Allen Cormany, the state deputy of the Montana Knights of Columbus.

Cormany suggested that rather than replacing the name of the state holiday on the second Monday in October, the bill be amended to give the day two names: Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day.

"Many holidays have two names," Cormany testified. "Memorial Day which is also known as Decoration Day, Fourth of July which is also known as Independence Day, and Armistice Day which is also known as Veterans Day."

A similar bill in 2017 to change the holiday to Montana Heritage Day passed the house 75-25, but never made it out of Senate committee that session.