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Denver celebrates 30 years of Four Directions All Nations March

Movement aims to abolish Columbus Day

Protesters asked to abolish Columbus Day while raising awareness for indigenous rights.
Photo: Taelar Pollmann . The Sentry

In protest of Columbus Day in Colorado, hundreds of people took to the streets of Denver as part of the Four Directions All Nations March on Saturday, Oct. 12. The event marked the 30th anniversary of the movement to abolish what many describe as a “racist holiday” while supporting a variety of other causes related to indigenous peoples rights.  

The event was hosted by Transform Columbus Day Denver and the Four Winds American Indian Council. According to the American Indian Movement of Colorado, the event is “a powerful statement about an indigenous peoples’ vision to transform the hatred and negativity of the Columbus Day holiday and celebrations into a positive future.” 

Columbus Day has its roots in Colorado as the first state to name it as an official holiday back in 1909. Recently, several states have instead opted to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, although Colorado is not one of them.   

This march began in each of the four cardinal directions, both for their spiritual importance and to highlight the variety of issues that indigenous people fight for. In the East, marchers focused on “Harmony with the Earth”, while the West demanded the closure of “concentration camps,” a reference to immigrant detention centers. The North marched for spiritual respect of elders and ancestors, and the South focused on “Honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.”

The march was a striking sight as the groups, clad in the four colors of the Medicine Wheel, chanted, “Columbus Day has got to go.” Many protesters bore signs with statements like, “Columbus your visa has expired,” “Water is Life,” and, “Indian Schools were Death Camps.”  

Ultimately all groups converged in the intersection of Colfax Ave and Lincoln, where they halted traffic for over 30 minutes as they performed dances and spiritual ceremonies.  

“That is what decolonization looks like. It looks like us in our homelands occupying our space for as long as we need to be there and calling on our ancestors in the process,” Sky Roosevelt-Morris, one of the organizers of the event, said 

The protest eventually moved to the steps of the capitol, where a variety of indigenous rights leaders gave speeches on the future of their community and the pressing need to act.  

“We’re not here just to spend the day in the sun. We’re here to stop this holiday and we’ll need every single one of you. This doesn’t end today and abolishing this holiday is not the end of this,” Glenn Morris, longtime activist and professor at CU Denver, said.  

Though the “Repeal Columbus Day As State Legal Holiday” bill has failed to pass through the Colorado State Senate for the last three years, state representatives who attended the march are hopeful for the future.  

“We came very close last year. When we get to our next legislative session, we hope we can get it passed. That was the first year we passed it though the House, and next year we’ve got to work on the Senate. We can do that,” Adrienne Benavidez, a Colorado state representative, said. 

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