Sen. Irwin Introduces Bill to Replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day

LANSING — Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) today introduced a bill to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Michigan. Senate Bill 568 would make Michigan the eighth state in the nation to reclaim Columbus Day in honor of indigenous and tribal communities.

“Michigan, at the heart of the Great Lakes basin, has a rich and long history, extending long before Europeans first arrived,” Sen. Irwin said. “It is only fitting thatwe more prominently recognize and celebrate the rich and vibrant, tribal tradition ofthe indigenous people of Michigan, and of this continent.”

The second Monday in October has been a federal holiday since 1934 in recognition of Columbus’s discovery of the New World. While this is often the reason given for recognizing Columbus, history shows that he never set foot on the American continent. Upon the settlement of European explorers in the early 14th century, indigenous populations have steadily dwindled and today are a fraction of their former size. Wars, disease, and American relocation policies have shrunk the land on which native people reside.

The International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas first called to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in 1977, but the first communities in America did not start to adopt the change until 1992.

“Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2016, and the State of Michigan should follow their lead,” Sen. Irwin said. “Six other cities in Michigan —Alpena, Detroit, East Lansing, Ferndale, Southfield, and Traverse City — have opted to reclaim this day as Indigenous Peoples Day’ and I applaud their courage. By highlighting their contributions, we also shine a light on the important struggles thatnative communities face, such as poverty and isolation.”

Should this bill pass, Michigan would join Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, South Dakota and Vermont in celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

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