The 2023 Legislative session is shaping up to be one of the ugliest in living memory. Bills attacking Indigenous Peoples, medical privacy, LGBTQ+ children, and the poor have dominated the session. And today, in yet another show of ignorance, Republicans tabled Senator Shane Morigeau’s bill to recognize Indigenous People’s Day.

Attempts to change the name of Columbus Day have been made at the state, local, and national level for years. So today, I’m sharing a piece from Rylee Mitchell, who wrote this piece as a Teen Columnist for the Great Falls Tribune in 2017.   At the time, the requested change was for “Montana Heritage Day” to replace Columbus Day, a measure which also failed. Though this piece is nearly six years old now, Montana decided again today to continue honoring the rapist and genocidal murderer, Christopher Columbus.

This piece was written by Rylee Mitchel and published by the Great Falls Tribune on February 27, 2017.

“Columbus Day or Montana Heritage Day — the name of the holiday might not mean much to you, but to me, as a Native American, it matters quite a lot.

And it’s not just the name of the holiday but also how we teach Native American history in our schools. Learning about Columbus Day involves taking 10 minutes to go over the day he reaches America and how he sailed the ocean blue in 1492 in search of gold, spreading Christianity along the way. Then we jump to Thanksgiving and then to Lewis and Clark with nothing in between. No discussions about boarding schools, wars or mass killings. Native American history gets left in the past.

Let’s not forget that Columbus paved the way for the wicked and cruel murder and rape of the indigenous people.

We are people who don’t deserve to live in the Europeans’ shadow. We deserve to have our stories told in the history books just like everyone else.

By not properly educating people about Native American history, it makes them much less likely to relate to us and understand us. They think we aren’t like everyone else.

But why?

Because of the color of our skin? Because we should be on a reservation?

Ignorance leads to name calling like redskin, Pocahontas and war heads. We aren’t depicted as real people in pictures, just as fictional characters.

“All that Native Americans gave us was land and diseases.”

“Native Americans killed us, like the holocaust.”

“God gave the Indians Europeans to help them.”

I heard all these comments and more when we talked about Native Americans in class last year.

Native Americans still deal with the mass killings of the past. The times when the men went to get food and came back to find all the women and children killed and the camp burned. We deal with the history of boarding school rapes and abuse and the sterilizing of Native American women.

Our tribal members still must cope with all these things, and the drinking that can come with it. We are still getting hurt, stereotyped and treated like we aren’t human. We are lucky we are still here.

Changing the name of this holiday would give a voice to Native Americans and represent a step forward to understanding our culture. We deserve for our history and stories to be told in schools. Education leads to more understanding and fewer labels and stereotypes.

We are human. We deserve to have our story told.”

Rylee Mitchell is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Montana. Rylee is from Great Falls, Montana. Rylee is currently studying Civil Engineering at Montana Tech in Butte, Montana.

Read the original piece here: