A bill that would have repealed Columbus Day as a state-recognized holiday in Colorado died late Monday after four hours of testimony.
HB-1135 was killed by a 7-2 vote.
Bill sponsor House Representative Joe Salazar, a Democrat, told ICTMN Tuesday that some members of the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee conjured spurious reasons as to why they thought the holiday should continue in the state.
“Last night, some members of the [Colorado] House of Representatives made an excuse to vote against the bill repealing Columbus Day and replacing it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” Salazar said in a message.
Salazar said several committee members argued that his bill stripped one thing from Italian-Americans and provided something else to Native Americans.
“The excuse was that the bill took away from one community [Italian-Americans] and gave to another community [American Indians]. This excuse completely ignores that because of Columbus everything, absolutely everything, has been taken away from indigenous peoples. I repudiate any excuses that allows Colorado to continue honoring one of the greatest mass murderers and slave traders of all time,” Salazar wrote.
Tessa McLean, who is Ojibwe and a member of the American Indian Movement in Colorado, testified in favor of the bill, but was laughed at by opponents of the legislation when she blamed Columbus for the deaths of thousands of murdered and missing indigenous women in the U.S. and Canada today.
“If your family and ancestors didn’t have to survive hundreds of years of genocide, I could probably understand if you didn’t agree with me that Columbus was responsible for leaving Native people with a colonial legacy of genocide, but still, why the laughter?” McLean wrote in a message to ICTMN.
“As the testimonies went on,” McLean wrote, “I heard time and time again that this bill pitted the American Indian and Italian-American community against each other. Not once did I hear any testimonies in support of the bill say anything negative to the Italian-American community. In fact, many of our testimonies praised the Italians for their great contributions to art, food, and culture. Many of us claimed we could celebrate an Italian-American Pride Day with their communities – just not Columbus Day.”
McLean said Columbus Day is a “racist holiday,” and that the youth will continue the effort to see the holiday repealed.
Proponents of Columbus Day argued that as U.S. citizens they have a right to celebrate Columbus Day if they wish.
“As an American citizen I have a right to celebrate my national holidays without anybody interfering with by ability to do so,” Richard SaBell, former president of the Columbus Day Parade Committee, said, Joey Bunch of The Denver Postreported.
In February, Salazar defended his bill when he met with members of the pro-Columbus Day Italian-American community in Denver. Frustrated committee members demanded that Salazar “be a man” and pull the legislation. Salazar refused:
Christopher Columbus and his men committed acts of cruelty and terror against indigenous peoples and set precedent for the genocide of millions of Native Americans, according to scholars. Supporters of Christopher Columbus argue that he was an intrepid sailor who should not be judged by 21st century standards.
The bill to repeal the holiday could have passed had each of the Democrats on the committee voted yes. However, only two Democrats, Su Ryden and Susan Lontine, voted in favor of the bill.