State Rep. David Bowen reintroduces Indigenous Peoples Day bill

Holiday would replace Columbus Day

MILWAUKEE - A growing nationwide movement to replace Columbus Day with a day that recognizes Native Americans has arrived in Wisconsin.

A state representative has re-introduced a bill to create an official Indigenous Peoples Day, to be celebrated instead of Columbus Day on the second Monday in October.

Milwaukee County already passed a resolution to recognize the day as Indigenous Peoples Day in addition to Columbus Day.

As part of the celebration, dancers from the Oneida Nation brought their culture to students at Barbee Montessori school in Milwaukee.

"Those kids were saying indigenous words," said one of the dancers, Mark Denning. "That was the language of 1491 before Columbus was even here and the magic was they were doing it in 2017."

Some of the work done to make this a recognized day in the county happened at the Indian Community School in Franklin. Several students there wrote letters to county supervisors and even wrote language in the official resolution.

State Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee), said he wanted to join the students' efforts by reintroducing his Wisconsin Indigenous Peoples Day bill.

"We're not changing history, we’re just recognizing true history and I think it’s respectful to the communities that were here before any European settlers got to this country, that it’s important to recognize the truth," Bowen said.

But not everyone agrees that Columbus Day should be replaced. Several callers voiced concerns on our sister station 620 WTMJ radio with Jeff Wagner. He read an email from one listener that read:

"Why in the world does everyone think they have the right to change what’s been the history for years? I am so tired of this good and bad, history is history. You don’t change it by taking down statues, flags not celebrating certain days."

Lisa Summers, a leader in the Oneida Nation, said the effects of what happened to her ancestors still hurt their families.

"Columbus to indigenous people really represents the genocide of a lot of Native American cultures in what is now the continental United States," Summers said. "Having the respected acknowledgment of this day to be Indigenous Peoples Day goes a lot way into helping the healing process."

More than 50 communities in the country recognize an Indigenous Peoples Day, including Los Angeles, Phoenix and Minneapolis. Several states have also adopted the holiday including Alaska and Vermont.

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