On October 11, commonly celebrated as Columbus Day, the Native American and Indigenous community gathered at the Missoula County Courthouse to mark Indigenous Peoples Day that replaces Columbus Day in Montana.
KGVO spoke to State Representative Shane Morigeau ahead of the rally to explain its purpose.
“We are here today to urge the state to anchor Indigenous Peoples Day and make Indigenous Peoples Day a holiday that we can all celebrate together,” said Morigeau. “For us it has always been about having a day to celebrate all of the rich cultural heritage that every Montana has to offer because we’re all from somewhere indigenous, right? And for us part of it speaks about the truth of Christopher Columbus. “
Traditional history books don’t include the information Morigeau shared with KGVO on Monday.
“The stories of him sexually abusing children as young as nine,” he said. “He also talked about how his soldiers practiced sharpening their swords by cutting people in half for fun. These are things people don’t learn about. “
Morigeau said he grew up unaware that the Christopher Columbus he was taught “discovered America” was abusing the indigenous peoples of Central America.
“I’ve now learned to honor someone who probably hated my existence, right?” He asked one day when we celebrate it together, celebrate each other and talk about these things and be honest with ourselves and in the mirror look and reflect and recognize who he really was. “
Morigeau also raised the issue of Native American children being forced to attend boarding schools on reservations that tried to destroy the native language and culture.
“I have family members who went to boarding schools who were taught not to learn the culture,” he said. “You know the saying ‘kill the Indian, save the man’, don’t you? We lost a lot of our language in the process, but we have come a long way to rebuild and repair it, and this (an official Indigenous Peoples Day) would be a step in the right direction where we could heal together and one another celebrate.”
Morigeau introduced SB 146, which would replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, but the bill died during the last session of the Montana Legislature’s Standing Committee.
There was a full-day program for Indigenous Peoples Day on the UM campus.
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