Bozeman celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day with mayoral proclamat - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Bozeman celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day with mayoral proclamation

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On Monday, October 8, Bozeman joined a growing number of cities, including San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Boise, to change the focus of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. Mayor Cyndy Andrus read an official proclamation recognizing both the holiday and the heritage of Bozeman's indigenous peoples at Monday's city commission meeting.

Scholars now know that famed colonist Christopher Columbus wasn’t even the first European to set foot in North America; the credit for that likely goes to the Vikings, according to Russell Freedom, author of Who Was First?: Discovering the Americas.

"Columbus's claim to fame isn't that he got there first," historian Martin Dugard explains in his book The Last Voyage of Columbus, "it's that he stayed."

Proponents of Indigenous Peoples Day say that “Columbus Day” gives one man credit for the “discovery” of a continent that – at the time – was already inhabited by anywhere from 2 million-100+ million people. Not to mention, the diseases brought by Columbus and his men wiped out nearly 90% of North America’s native population.

Now, a growing number of people are encouraging their cities and states to use what is already a national holiday to celebrate the nation’s original settlers.

Bozeman was one of the first cities in the country to adopt the change in 2016. Since then, the city has continued to honor the holiday.

Bozeman supporters say it’s not about rewriting history, but recognizing our ancestors’ mistakes.

“Bozeman was built on the homelands and the villages and the traditional use areas of many indigenous people,” Mayor Andrus points out. “And so for us to celebrate that heritage every year is important.”

Marsha Small, a cofounder of Indigenous Peoples Day Montana, was the recipient of the official proclamation from Mayor Andrus on Monday. She believes that because “all peoples have a specific and distinct culture” that should be shared, Indigenous Peoples Day “empowers not only the indigenous peoples here, but all peoples.”

Small hopes that Indigenous Peoples Day will one day be celebrated statewide.

For Zach Felsman, the Co-President of Montana State University’s Indigenous Peoples Day, hope is starting to match up with reality. It’s become clear, he says, that Native Americans are not the only ones in favor of changing the focus of the holiday. And that momentum is worth getting excited about.

“I believe that this will become a movement that…could be a turning point for this country,” Felsman claims. “Not only for the American Indian, indigenous peoples of this country, also for all people in this country.”

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