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Minutes for HB2009 - Committee on Federal and State Affairs

Short Title

Changing the designation of columbus day to indigenous peoples day.

Minutes Content for Wed, Feb 6, 2019

Chairperson Barker opened the hearing on HB 2009.  Jason Long provided an overview of the bill (Attachment 1).

Chairperson Barker recognized Representative Victors as a proponent of HB 2009 (Attachment 2).  She stated this bill would abolish Columbus Day and make it Indigenous Peoples Day.  It would dispel the myth that Columbus discovered America.  Changing this day will celebrate the indigenous peoples' survival, resilience, and deep contributions to all peoples that now live on this land.  Her research on Columbus revealed that he was a slave trader, selling indigenous girls as young as nine and ten years old.  His crimes were so severe that he was taken back to Europe and put on trial.  Celebrating Columbus Day represents his actions of rape, murder and enslavement of indigenous peoples.  The Columbus Day holiday was enacted in 1934, when native Americans did not have the right to vote in most states.

Joseph Rupnick, Chairman of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Tribal Council, was recognized by Chairperson Barker as a proponent of HB 2009 (Attachment 3).  He testified that when Christopher Columbus set sail from Europe he intended to reach India.  When he first encountered the inhabitants of the island he landed on, he mistakenly thought he was in India and that's how they got the name Indian.  We now know from history that he landed in the Americas. Since then history books have taught that Columbus discovered America, ignoring the fact that this continent was already inhabited by many people who had occupied this land for thousands of years.  To indigenous people Columbus Day marks the end of their civilization and the end of their culture.  By referring to this day as Indigenous Peoples Day, history books can begin to tell the rest of the story.  By adopting HB 2009, we are not tearing down history, but are reaffirming the contributions that indigenous peoples have made. 

Representative Highberger then provided testimony in support of HB 2009 (Attachment 4).  He stated that when Columbus Day began to be celebrated in the United States, Native Americans were not recognized as human beings under U.S. law.  While Columbus may have been the first European to visit the Americas, other than the Vikings, the continents that he "discovered" were already inhabited by millions of people.  In addition, tens of millions of people died through slavery, disease and murder after the arrival of Columbus and the Europeans that followed him.  He believes it is time to change this holiday to reflect our understanding of history and to give Native Americans the respect they are due. 

Chairperson Barker recognized Georgia Blackwood as a proponent of HB 2009 (Attachment 5).  She testified that celebrating Christopher Columbus is the equivalent of celebrating someone who, if he were to perpetrate the same atrocities today that he did in 1492, would be on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.  It is now well-documented and substantiated by archeologists and historians that the North American continent was visited by Norse explorers, among them Leif Erickson, approximately 500 years prior to Columbus' arrival in the Bahamas.  Celebrating Columbus Day perpetuates stereotypes and the marginalization of Indigenous people and pays homage to a man who committed human rights violations.  Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day would recognize the marginalized, break stereotypes, support diversity, increase the education of future generations and help to build bridges between all peoples.

Carole Cadue-Blackwood testified in support of HB 2009 (Attachment 6).  She supports the recognition of historical and cultural contributions of Indigenous Peoples here in Kansas.  Kansas has been the home to numerous American Indian peoples.  According to the Kansas Historical Society, nearly 30 tribes have historical ties and/or resided in Kansas. Today, Kansas is home to four Indian reservations -- the Iowa, Kickapoo, Prairie Band Potawatomi, and the Sac and Fox. It's important for Kansans to celebrate diversity, increase Native curriculum, break stereotypes and build bridges that everyone can cross.

Chairperson Barker called upon Lester Randall, Chairman of the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, as a proponent of HB 2009 (Attachment 7).  He testified that in 2013, Governor Sam Brownback recognized November as National American Indian Heritage Month, and stated that, "the history and culture of our great nation and the State of Kansas have been significantly influenced by American Indians and indigenous peoples."  By changing the second Monday in October to Indigenous Peoples Day, the State of Kansas can further demonstrate awareness of the rich history, culture and traditions of the indigenous peoples of America and the resident Indian Tribes in our state.

Lisa Larsen, Mayor of Lawrence, Kansas, testified as a proponent on HB 2009 (Attachment 8).  The City of Lawrence strongly supports the passage of this bill.  Changing the observance of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day is long overdue.  The Seal of the great State of Kansas recognizes indigenous peoples.  It does not have an image of Columbus on it.  It is time that Kansas, as an official observed state holiday, does so as well.

Chairperson Barker recognized Alex Red Corn as a proponent of HB 2009 (Attachment 9) (Attachment 9A).  Columbus never made it to continental North America or the land that has become the United States, nor did he ever visit the land we now call Kansas.  However, indigenous people have been central to the entirety of human history within this state's current boundaries.  In addition, the State of Kansas no longer considers Columbus Day one of the eight official state holidays, so making this change would not cause any undue burden. 

Chairperson Barker stated there were no further proponents.  There is written proponent testimony from Letitia Harmon of the ACLU (Attachment 10).

Representative Humphries had a question about legal and public holidays.  Jason Long, Revisor, responded.

Representative Highberger stated that he would have an amendment to change the effective date to January 2020 when they work this bill.   

Chairperson Barker stated that there were no opponents and closed the hearing on HB2009