By Dillon Thomas

DENVER (CBS4) – Hundreds of protestors gathered at the steps of the Colorado State Capitol on Saturday to protest the celebration of Columbus Day. Protestors, most of whom were of Native American descent, called for lawmakers and Gov. Jared Polis to abolish Columbus Day and create Indigenous People’s Day instead.

Protestors gather outside the Colorado State Capitol calling for Gov. Polis to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day.

Protestors gather outside the Colorado State Capitol calling for Gov. Polis to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. (credit: CBS)

“It is time to abolish Columbus Day,” said Glenn Morris, a member of Leadership Council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado. “To celebrate Columbus, and to celebrate the acts of Columbus, is an affront to native people. But, it should be an affront to people of good conscience of any community.”

Columbus Day was created in Denver in 1905, something many Native Americans in Colorado say is something to be embarrassed by. The holiday was created to celebrate Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the Americas. However, as some pointed out at the protest, Columbus did not discover the Americas. Indigenous people were already inhabiting the land, many of whom were killed or displaced by those who followed Columbus.

“We, as native people, welcomed newcomers. But, it wasn’t reciprocated,” Morris said.

Many states have adopted laws which rid of the Columbus Day title. Instead, many have accepted Indigenous People’s Day instead. State Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, a Democrat, says she sponsored three bills in the past three years to do the same. However, they all fell short. She cited concerns from others that the abolishment of Columbus Day would be insulting to Italian-Americans.

“(Columbus) never ever set foot in the United States,” Benavidez told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “What country celebrates a foreign person who never set foot in their country?”

“I think (other states have abolished the holiday) because many people are recognizing that the veneration and the celebration of Columbus is anti-Indian, anti-black,” Morris said. “This march epitomizes that this city, this state and this country can have an example beyond Columbus Day that brings us together.”

Benavidez said she will, for the fourth time, propose the bill in the next legislative session.

Morris threatened Colorado Democrats with an ultimatum. With Democrats in control of the House, the Senate and the governorship in Colorado, Morris said there is no reason why they shouldn’t push the idea through quickly. Morris said he, and others, would remember a failed initiative and would go to the polls in the next election with that at the forefront of their memories.

Dillon Thomas

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