Wednesday

A bill that would replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day passed through a state Senate committee on Wednesday as more than a dozen supporters lined up to speak in favor of the change.

The proposed change mirrors legislation in other states removing the day honoring 15th Century Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in favor of a day celebrating native peoples.

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, introduced Senate Bill 105, which would request the governor name the second Monday in October – currently Columbus Day – as Indigenous People’s Day. The bill passed committee by a 4-1 vote.

“We do have a large Native American population in the United States and I think it’s kind of appropriate in this divisive time in our history to focus on the true natives and realize the rest of us are all immigrants,” Segerblom said.

Columbus is widely taught in schools as the man who discovered America, but recent scholarly opinion on the man is divided. Proponents of keeping Columbus Day say it celebrates the country’s heritage. The day is especially important to some Italian Americans.

Opponents argue it glorifies a man who engaged in atrocities including enslavement, genocide and rape. Multiple people pointed out during the committee hearing that Columbus never actually set foot in America, instead colonizing modern day Haiti and the Dominican Republic.


Columbus Day has not been celebrated as a state holiday since 1992, when it was replaced with Nevada Day.

Segerblom said he hoped schools would teach about Native American history around the holiday if the bill passes.

Numerous people spoke on behalf of the bill. Nobody spoke in opposition.

Arlan Melendez, chairman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, said the idea was about celebrating the oft-overlooked culture of Native Americans than demeaning Columbus.


“Indigenous People’s Day, when we think about it, will change a celebration of colonialism into a celebration of opportunity to present historical truth and to also recognize the rich culture and heritage and contributions of indigenous people of this land,” Melendez said. “When you really think about it, that’s what really makes this country great and that’s really what makes our state great.”

Sherry Rupert, executive director of the Nevada Indian Commission, said the state agency supported the bill. The Nevada Indian Commission executive director is a cabinet-level position in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s administration.

The Columbus Day debate reared its head in Reno in recent months when in October a motorist drove through protesters under the Arch who were calling for an end to the holiday. Kitty Colbert, one of the protesters who was run over, spoke on behalf of the bill during the committee meeting.
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