Colorado in 1907 became the first state to recognize Columbus Day as a state holiday. Next year, the state could officially abolish the October holiday.

State Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, a Commerce City Democrat, promises to bring a bill in 2020 to repeal Columbus Day as an official state holiday and, in its place, make Colorado Day a state holiday. That’s on Aug. 1 each year.

Seven states and more than 125 cities, including Boulder, have repealed and replaced Columbus Day.

Benavidez is motivated by the fact that Christopher Columbus killed, kidnapped or enslaved thousands of native people.

“The terrible atrocities that he oversaw and personally initiated against the indigenous people that he encountered — it’s not something that we should be celebrating,” she said.

There’s good reason to believe her view will be supported by enough lawmakers next year to pass the bill she says she’ll bring. She introduced similar legislation last year, proposing to repeal Columbus Day and to make Election Day a state holiday. The bill easily cleared the House but was sidelined in the Senate amid concerns from progressive groups who worried that, counterintuitively, an Election Day holiday could actually harm voter turnout.

Benavidez is starting anew this year, with a proposed holiday swap she believes will be less controversial.

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville is vowing to fight her.

“Democrats and Rep. Benavidez seem intent upon destroying Columbus Day,” the Republican said in a statement. “What a tremendous waste of time and effort with the important issues we are facing in this state.”

But it may not matter to the potential bill’s fate what Neville and other critics think. A similar bill failed in the split legislature of 2017, but Democrats now control the House, Senate and governor’s office, and could repeal Columbus Day on a party-line vote.

Rep. Chris Kennedy, a Jefferson County Democrat and assistant majority leader, chairs the committee that heard Benavidez’s bill last session. He indicated strong support for advancing repeal-and-replace legislation next year.

“It is time for us to move on from celebrating Columbus Day in this way,” he said, later adding, “I think there’s a growing understanding that this isn’t just some symbolic thing. Columbus Day being celebrated is something that causes trauma from the people descended from the people brutalized by Columbus and others with him.”

Sky Roosevelt-Morris, who sits on the leadership council for the American-Indian Movement of Colorado, said she supports Benavidez’s proposal and, should a bill be introduced, will rally for it next session.

“It’s long overdue,” she said of the potential repeal.

Some states and cities have repealed Columbus Day and now celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same date. But there’s disagreement in the Native American community about the value of that.

“Would an Indigenous Peoples’ Day mean that for one day of the year, non-native people have to acknowledge our existence on some superficial level?” Roosevelt-Morris said. “The hell with that. I want people to honor our treaties, to stop murdering our women, stealing our children, maybe give some land back.”

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