New State Holiday Would Replace Columbus Day
LINCOLN – State Senator Patty Pansing Brooks introduced LB 485 today to create “Standing Bear and Indigenous Leaders’ Day.” The new state holiday would replace Columbus Day and would be celebrated the second Monday in October each year.
“As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of our wonderful state, what better time to honor Chief Standing Bear and Nebraska’s other great indigenous leaders,” said Senator Pansing Brooks. “Chief Standing Bear is a recognized as a symbol of civil rights throughout the United States and his plea for humanity exemplified the plea of all Native Americans throughout history.”
Replacing Columbus Day is not a new concept. Nebraska’s neighbor to the North, South Dakota, has been celebrating “Native American Day” since 1989 when legislators there unanimously passed a bill replacing Columbus Day with “Native American Day.”
Columbus Day is a controversial holiday due in part to Columbus’s treatment of native peoples.
However, Senator Pansing Brooks said while Columbus Day is a divisive holiday for many people, Chief Standing Bear and his story are something all Nebraskans can be proud of.
In Standing Bear v. Crook in the United States District Court, Chief Standing Bear argued that Native Americans are persons within the meaning of the law. Near the close of the trial, Chief Standing Bear rose, famously held out his right hand and addressed the court stating “That hand is not the color of yours, but if I prick it, the blood will flow and I shall feel pain. The blood is of the same color as yours. God made me, and I am a man.” The court rendered a decision in favor of Chief Standing Bear in May 12, 1879.
As stated in the legislation, “the trial speaks to matters of citizenship, humanity and the rights of all Americans. The historic case echoes Nebraska’s motto of “equality Before the Law, reflecting Nebraska’s deep conviction that everyone who comes before the law is equal.
However, Standing Bear and Indigenous Leaders’ Day is established to honor not only Chief Standing Bear but also the many other remarkable leaders of the state’s indigenous people, including but not limited to Chief Blackbird (Omaha), Chief Little Priest (Winnebago) and Big Eagle (Santee Sioux). Chief Standing Bear was a member of the Ponca Tribe.
Senator Pansing Brooks said the establishment of Standing Bear and Indigenous Leaders Day would come in time to begin this year, making it especially significant given the state’s sesquicentennial, a yearlong celebration involving a variety of programs.
“Standing Bear and Indigenous Leaders’ Day will be something uniquely Nebraskan,” said Senator Pansing Brooks. “It will help instill in every citizen a greater understanding of our history, our cultures and our common humanity, and it will further our state’s motto of “Equality before the law.”