On October 11, commonly celebrated as Columbus Day, saw the Native American and Indigenous Peoples community rally at the Missoula County Courthouse for passage of an Indigenous Peoples Day to replace Columbus Day in Montana.

KGVO spoke with State Representative Shane Morigeau before the rally to explain its purpose.

“We're here today to call on the state to incorporate Indigenous Peoples Day, and to make Indigenous Peoples Day as a holiday that can be a day for all of us to celebrate together,” said Morigeau. “For us, it's always been about having a day that we can celebrate all the rich cultural heritage that every Montanan has to offer because after all, we're all indigenous from somewhere right? And for us, part of that is talking about the truth of Christopher Columbus.”

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Traditional history books don’t include the information that Morigeau shared with KGVO on Monday.

“The stories of him sex trafficking kids as young as age nine,” he said. “Also talking about how his soldiers would practice sharpening their swords by cutting people in half for fun. These are things that people don't learn about.”

Morigeau said he grew up not realizing that the Christopher Columbus he was taught who ‘discovered America’ abused the indigenous peoples of Central America.

“I learned to honor somebody, meanwhile, who probably hated the very existence of me, right?" he asked. “I was learning to honor somebody who really looked at me as a second class citizen, so, for us, it's about having a day where we can celebrate it together, celebrate each other and talk about these things and be honest with ourselves and look in the mirror and do some self reflection and recognize who he really was.”

Morigeau also touched on the subject of Native American children being forced to attend boarding schools on reservations that sought to destroy the native language and culture.

“I have family members who went to boarding schools who were taught to not learn the culture,” he said. “You know the saying is ‘kill the Indian, save the man,' right? In doing so, we've lost a lot of a lot of our language, but we've came a long way in rebuilding and repairing that and this (an official Indigenous Peoples Day) would be a step in the right direction to where we could heal together and celebrate each other.”

Morigeau introduced SB 146 that would replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, but the bill died in standing committee in the Montana Legislature during the last session.

On the UM campus there was an all-day program to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.

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