TOPEKA — On Feb. 6, a committee hearing took place in the Kansas House for HB2009. The bill is “an act concerning legal public holidays; designating indigenous people’s day; amending K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 35-107 and 35-205 and repealing existing sections.”
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dennis “Boog” Highberger (D-Lawrence) and Rep. Ponka-We Victors (D-Wichita), proposes that the second Monday in October no longer be recognized as Columbus Day, but rather as Indigenous Peoples Day.
The idea of Indigenous Peoples Day was originally presented in 1977 and looks to recognize “the historic, cultural, and contemporary significance of the indigenous peoples of the lands that later became known as the Americas, including Kansas,” according to the original bill.
No one spoke to oppose the legislative bill. The bill was prefilled for introduction on Jan. 8 and introduced on Jan. 14.
Carole Cadue-Blackwood, 45, a Lawrence resident, mother of three, and member of the Kickapoo Tribe, spoke to the House in support of the bill.
“The passage of Indigenous Peoples Day can be a catalyst for healing…It is important for us in Kansas to celebrate diversity, increase native curriculum, break stereotypes, and build bridges that everyone can cross,” Blackwood said.
Blackwood was part of a grassroots effort responsible for accruing enough signatures to change the name of South Middle School in Lawrence to Billy Mills Middle School in honor of local Native American Olympian, Billy Mills.
In addition to speaking to the committee about the bill, Blackwood was honored on the House floor later that morning. She was recognized as the recipient of the National Indian Education Association Parent of the Year Award for her advocacy work for indigenous people.
Blackwood’s 15-year-old daughter, Georgia, also spoke during the committee hearing.
She said 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.”
Lawrence Mayor Lisa Larsen also spoke, emphasizing the city’s strong support of the bill.
Larsen mentioned the city’s recognition of indigenous peoples, focusing on the recent Billy Mills Middle School name change and the importance of Haskell Indian Nations University.
The city of Lawrence began recognizing Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day over three years ago.
“Changing the observance of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day is long, long overdue,” Larsen said.
If passed through legislation, a signature from Gov. Laura Kelly will be needed in order to enact the bill which would go into effect on July 1. The enactment would have no fiscal effect.
Olivia Schmidt is a University of Kansas senior from Lawrence majoring in journalism.