The state of Montana currently recognizes the second Monday in October as Columbus Day, but that might change as a new bill heads through the state legislature chambers.
House Bill No. 146, “Establish Indigenous People’s Day,” hearing at the Montana Legislature’s Senate State Administration committee was discussed on Wednesday, February 10.
The bill is sponsored by Democrat Senator Shane Morigeau (SD 48), a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and a fourth-term state lawmaker.
The bill’s language is straightforward. If passed by the Senate and House, then signed by Gov. Gianforte, Indigenous People’s Day would become a legal holiday in Montana, replacing Columbus Day.
In 2019, then-Rep. Morigeau brought the same effort to the legislature. It passed the House with a majority vote, but was tabled by the Senate State Administration Committee, effectively killing the bill.
The bill has been brought back to life this 67th legislative session and if passed, would join several Montana cities that have already recognized the day, including Bozeman, Missoula, and Helena.
The holiday is recognized by several states already including New Mexico, Oregon, and Alaska. South Dakota, in a similar vein, celebrates Native American Day.
Even the U.S. Capitol has not celebrated Columbus Day in recent years. The Council of the District of Columbia voted to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day in 2019 and 2020, though the decision was temporary.
Columbus Day is celebrated in the U.S. as a federal holiday to commemorate the landing of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Columbus is widely criticized due to his claim that he discovered a place already inhabited and his involvement with slavery and violent colonization of the Americas.