Bill to replace Columbus Day with ‘Indigenous People’s Day’ dies in Senate

Posted at 6:44 PM, Mar 01, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY — After a fiery debate, the Utah State Senate defeated a bill that would have renamed Columbus Day as “Indigenous People’s Day.”

“Our history did not start with Pioneer Day and the celebration we had there,” Senate Bill 170 sponsor Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, said.

Dabakis wanted a paid, state holiday to honor Native Americans. He complained that his request for a set time to debate the bill, to allow tribal members to be present for the vote, was rejected by his colleagues.

Dabakis faced pushback. Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, pointed out that there already is an Indigenous People’s Day — the Monday before Thanksgiving. Dabakis claimed it didn’t get the same level of attention as Columbus Day.

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-Ogden, said Native Americans have a “very proud heritage they can look to.”

“If they choose to feel oppressed, that’s their right but another holiday… is not a way to lift yourself back up again,” Christensen said. “Columbus is an American hero.”

Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, called it a “slap in the face” to Italian-Americans to take Columbus Day.

Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, said lawmakers need to “recognize the history of genocide of our Native American brothers and sisters.”

The bill failed on a 15-10 vote.