State Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) on Thursday introduced bills that would replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Michigan, echoing similar measures that have been already been adopted by multiple Michigan cities.
“Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2016, and the State of Michigan should follow their lead,” 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.”
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Government Operations, which is typically where minority party bills go to die.
The legislation echoes a growing national movement to bring recognition to indigenous cultures who faced oppression after Christopher Columbus — a slavery-supporting European explorer — began the process of colonizing the Americas. The movement to replace Columbus Day has its roots in 1977, after members of the Haudenosaunee nation went before the United Nations’ Geneva Conference to ask for a day to pay tribute to oppressed and overlooked indigenous tribes.
Seven states currently recognize a form of Indigenous Peoples’ Day and multiple cities — including the six in Michigan — have passed resolutions that establish it either alongside or in place of Columbus Day. District of Columbia lawmakers just this week proposed emergency legislation to recognize the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
In September 2016, the East Lansing City Council adopted a resolution for Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The day would be used to “reflect upon the ongoing struggles of indigenous peoples on this land and to celebrate the thriving cultures and value that the Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi and other indigenous peoples contribute to communities throughout Michigan, the United States of America, and all over the world,” according to the meeting agenda.
The bill introduced by Irwin reflected a similar stance, and he said it was “only fitting” that the state should more prominently celebrate indigenous peoples’ contributions to Michigan communities.
“By highlighting their contributions, we also shine a light on the important struggles that native communities face, such as poverty and isolation,” Irwin said.