Nebraska lawmakers consider replacing Columbus Day

Posted at 9:01 PM, Jan 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-18 22:13:07-05

Lincoln lawmakers could permanently change the way a holiday is celebrated in Nebraska.

Columbus Day could change to honor Ponca Chief Standing Bear if a bill backed by State Senator Patty Pansing Brooks is passed into law.

Many Italian Americans see Christopher Columbus as a hero who helped open the west to international trade and exploration.

Many Native Americans see Columbus as a man who tortured and killed American Indians.

Standing Bear is deserving of a holiday in his honor, said Omaha Tribal Member Rudi Mitchell.

"His famous words were, 'if I cut my hand, my blood is the same as yours,'” Mitchell said. “’Therefore god made us both men and I'm a human being just like anybody else.’"

Columbus is often misrepresented in history classes as a hero, Mitchell said.

The holiday is offense to Native Americans, he said.

"He started genocide of a lot of Native American tribes, especially on the East Coast when Columbus came,” Mitchell said.

Sons of Italy Member George Matuella disagrees and says Columbus is a hero who opened the west to exploration.

"It would be tragic for the Italian American community,” Matuella said. “How would the people of Irish decent feel if somebody didn't like St. Patrick's Day and tried to change that?"

Native Americans deserve their own holiday, but not the second day of October, Matuella said.

"We have no problem with them having their own day with celebrating their heritage,” he said. “More power to them, but why pick on Columbus? A lot of historians are a little hazy about what he did."

The proposed bill has already inspired a discussion about Nebraska’s history.

"I think it would be a good thing for Nebraska, celebrating our culture and our natural areas, like Standing Bear Lake,” said Westside High School Student Adrian Smith.

"I don't think it should have been Christopher Columbus Day to begin with,” said Aaron Sinnott, Omaha. “I think they should be entitled to having their own name.

We slaughtered all of them to take what we have now."

Matuella says he’ll do everything he can to preserve Columbus Day in Nebraska

If the bill passes in Lincoln, the holiday would change to Chief Standing Bear and Indigenous Leaders’ Day.