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Push Grows to Celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day Across Montana

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Montana State University is hosting U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo for Indigenous Peoples Day. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Montana State University is hosting U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo for Indigenous Peoples Day. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
October 9, 2020

BOZEMAN, Mont. -- On Monday, many Montanans will be celebrating indigenous people rather than Christopher Columbus.

Four Treasure State cities have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in order to recognize native culture and history.

Marsha Small, an earth sciences doctoral student at Montana State University, is leading the push to observe Indigenous Peoples Day statewide.

She wants everyone to think about their ancestors on Monday, rather than just the legacy of European explorer Christopher Columbus.

"We need to have respect for each other and celebrate each other, rather than create more divisiveness," Small urged. "Let's create a collectiveness that moves toward a better horizon."

To commemorate the day, Montana State University is hosting Joy Harjo, the current U.S. poet laureate and the first Native American to the hold the title. Her lecture is free and accessible via Zoom at noon.

Small also encouraged people to look into the native history of the place they live.

"For a better road for all of us, a more accurate history and education - for a more accurate history, period - learn where you're at," Small implored. "Learn the lands on which you are on. Learn what that land used to be. Know the language of that land."

Bozeman and Missoula have recognized Indigenous Peoples Day since 2016. Helena and Harlem, a city near the Fort Belknap Reservation, joined them in 2019.

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