By Brian Bahouth
Reno – Christopher Columbus is a mascot of original American colonialism, but since the late 1970s numerous governmental jurisdictions within the United States have supplanted Columbus Day, the second Monday of October, with Indigenous Peoples Day. Faux trials and costumed ceremonies that annually mock Columbus’ ostensible “discovery” of America have become political street theater institutions, and in Nevada, Senate Bill 105 would establish Indigenous Peoples Day, but not at the expense of Christopher Columbus.
The Nevada Senate passed SB 105 on a unanimous vote on April 21, and on Monday May 1, primary sponsor, state Senator Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) presented the bill to the Assembly Government Affairs committee.
“As you know, Columbus didn’t discover America, he invaded America, and so we’re trying to set that historical fact correct. When it came out of the Senate Government Affairs committee, in that way, it took out Columbus Day and put in Indigenous Peoples Day. After that, people got wind of what was happening and the Italian American community, to their credit, came forward and raised some issues about it.”
As a compromise, Senator Segerblom said they moved Nevada’s proposed Indigenous Peoples Day to August 9, the United Nation’s Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
Ernie Adler spoke on behalf of the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe and said the tribe preferred the earlier version of the bill that supplanted Columbus Day but they also support the amended version.
The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony made a brief, unenthusiastic statement of support. No one offered testimony in opposition during the May 1 hearing in Assembly Government Affairs.
In recent years, Seattle, Minneapolis, Denver, Boulder and Phoenix have dumped Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples Day. Several states have adopted Indigenous Peoples Day to include South Dakota, Alaska and Vermont, and last year Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval declared September 23 to be American Indian Day. Senator Segerblom said passage and adoption of SB 105 would be an important step toward changing the myth of American history.
“We have 27 tribes here in the state of Nevada. Obviously they were here long before most of us. They have been beaten on, trampled , ripped off, stolen … we’ve created treaties that we lied about, but they’re still here. They represent some of the most beautiful areas of Nevada like Pyramid Lake. They are coming back, as far as pride in themselves, and so I think it’s a fitting time to recognize this.”
And though SB 105 is a compromise for now, Senator Segerblom looked to the future and concluded by saying the state’s Italian community might reconsider their allegiance to Christopher Columbus.
“I view this Indigenous Peoples Day as a work in progress, so at some point we need to take Columbus and disassociate him from Italian American Day, because Columbus, when you read the history, was a pretty bad actor.”