After hearing from more than a dozen American Indians Columbus Day is an insult to all tribal members, the Senate Government Affairs Committee voted Wednesday to send Tick Segerblom’s bill renaming that holiday Indigenous People’s Day to the entire Senate.
Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said it’s time to “recognize the true natives and that the rest of us are the immigrants.”
He said the actions of Columbus and other early Europeans who “discovered” the New World are tragedy.
“The history of discrimination is horrific,” Segerblom said. “The history of genocide is horrific.”
Southern Nevada history professor Sandra Cosgrove and a series of tribal members amplified those statements.
“He was not a hero,” she said. “He was advocating what amounted to genocide.”
Fawn Douglas of UNLV’s Native American Student Association described Columbus as a “racist and a murderer.”
Longtime chairman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Arlen Melendez said the intent of Segerblom’s Senate Bill 105 “is not to undermine the significant and valuable contributions of Italian Americans.”
But he said Columbus is the “poster boy” of the European invasion of the Americas and the resulting in “loss of our land, loss of our religion and loss of our language.”
Melendes said Native Americans for too long haven’t been fairly treated in American history. Changing Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day is a ”celebration of the opportunity to present historical truth,” he said.
He and several other witnesses said a number of other states and numerous cities have already made the change.
Former State Sen. Ernie Adler, representing the Pyramid Paiute Tribe, said he has long questioned why the state of Nevada has never recognized the contributions of its 27 American Indian tribes.
One of the witnesses, Kitty Colbert, using a walker to help her move to the witness chair, said she was the person run over by a man in a truck shouting racial epithets as a group of people protested Columbus Day on Oct. 10 in Reno. She said after that, her own granddaughter was told by a Reno middle school teacher “those protesters deserved to be run over.”
Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, voted against recommending passage of SB105 saying he wanted to know more about the other states and cities that have renamed Columbus Day — specifically whether they replaced Columbus Day or simply added a recognition of native people. Hardy said with that information, he could probably be persuaded to change and support the bill on the floor of the Senate.
Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka voted for it but raised concerns about the level of hateful speech by witnesses.
“Let’s not make this into something far beyond, heading into something more racist,” Goicoechea said.
The bill doesn’t mandate the creation of Indigenous People’s Day replacing Columbus Day. Instead it says Gov. Brian Sandoval, “is authorized and requested” to rename the second Monday in October to “celebrate the thriving culture and significant value that Indigenous people add to the state of Nevada and the United States of America.”
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