A new bill being drafted in the Utah State Legislature could change Columbus Day into "Indigenous Peoples Day" throughout the state.
While some critics point to political correctness as the reason for the legislation, proponents of the legislation make a strong case that the name of the holiday should be changed.
The proposed statewide legislation came after students at the University of Utah voted on Jan. 27 to replace Columbus Day. University Vice President Anthony Fratto said the point is to celebrate the Native American population rather than a man who was famous for conquering and killing indigenous tribes, the Daily Utah Chronicle reports.
Fratto has a point. The tale of Columbus' voyage to the Americas, which is told in American public schools, glosses over the fact that Columbus was a man known for his brutal treatment of his subjects as well as his mismanagement as governor of Hispaniola, for which he was removed and sent back to Spain.
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Beyond this, Columbus has no specific and particular connection to the state of Utah itself, while the Ute tribes who lived there before European exploration do.
One student legislator at the university asked if it might be prudent to consider combining Columbus Day and the proposed Indigenous Peoples Day into one event called "Discovery Day," the Daily Utah Chronicle reports. But this is not really a way forward either, because as another person present in the assembly noted, the name "Discovery Day" rests on false precepts.
“We were not discovered. We were actually here. Discovery assumes that we were lost. We were not lost,” said Kyle Ethelbah, a White Mountain Apache and director of the university's TRiO programs, said at the debate, reports KSTU.
Democratic State Sen. Jim Dabakis praised initiative as a way to make the university more inclusive, and KSTU reports that Dabakis is crafting the legislation at the state level.
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Ultimately, the decision to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in Utah is not part of an effort to impose political correctness on Utah's citizens, but rather to be more inclusive of descendants of the Ute tribes already living in Utah.
As Fratto said, the new holiday is meant “not to threaten your patriotism, but to support it."