With the recent vote by the City of Denver to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day (instead of Columbus Day), LRI caught up with Glenn Morris of Colorado AIM for some background into this historic event.
Colorado AIM began, and has led, the movement to challenge the racism of Columbus Day in Colorado and across the US. in Spring, 1988, to outline a campaign that built every year until 1992, the 500th anniversary of the invasion by Columbus. In 1991, Colorado AIM blocked the Columbus Day Parade in Denver, and four were put on trial (Russell Means, Ward Churchill, Glenn Morris, and Margaret Martinez). At a trial in June, 1992, those four educated the jury and the public, and we were found not guilty on all charges. Colorado AIM stopped the C-Day parade in 1992, with over 3000 people gathered at Denver’s Civic Center Park. Between 1992-2000, there was no celebration of Columbus in Denver. In 2000, the parade celebrating a racist genocidal maniac was resumed, and in 2000, AIM and allies blocked the parade, and 250 were arrested. Eventually, the charges were dropped against all. Again, AIM & allies were arrested in 2004, 147 arrests (at which time they were again found not guilty) and in 2007, with nearly 100 arrests.
In the words of Glenn Morris “Unlike some government functionaries, sell-outs and toadies (who might well be “Native Americans,” too) who are seeking now to take credit for the change on the City Council, it was those of us who took this struggle to the streets, to the schools, to the media, and to the public for the past 25 years who brought this change.” Paul Lopez, the courageous Denver city councilman who brought this resolution, and who was able to achieve unanimous support, was a student of Morris’ at UCD, and has been a friend to many of the Denver Indian community for decades. Lopez has marched with AIM & allies to stop Columbus Day on a number of occasions, and there is a photo of him pouring a bucket of fake blood in front of the C-Day parade in 2005. He has been arrested with AIM, and has gone to trial with AIM. Paul consulted Colorado AIM about this resolution, and when the resolution was passed, two long-time Colorado AIM members, spiritual man Robert Cross, and AIM elder, Troylynn Yellow Wood were presented the resolution by Councilman Lopez, after Robert and Troylynn prayed and sang a sacred song in the City Council meeting.
According to Glenn Morris “it was the struggle in the streets, the public education, and the consciousness-raising over 25 years by Colorado AIM and our allies — like Escuela Tlatelolco, the Transform Columbus Day Alliance, the faith community, and many Native people from across the US — that led to the resolution for Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Denver being passed, tonight. The credit for this does not belong to suck-up government bureaucrats, nor to the self-congratulation of toothless city commissions, and certainly not to those who have played it safe behind their desks or who have hidden in the safety of their homes, while the struggle takes place in the streets, and other public places. Colorado AIM was at the forefront of this struggle, and has continued with that struggle, as recently as in the streets of Pueblo. We have much to be proud of in this development, and we must be certain that history is accurately recounted in this account. Those are the facts — and no dishonest or duplicitous Facebook posts or self-promoting government press releases will change those facts.”
Glenn Morris ended the correspondence by asking and challenging all of us to continue our struggle. “Our friend, Representative Joe Salazar will be introducing legislation to end the Columbus Day holiday in January at the Colorado state legislature. He needs us to watch his back — both politically and literally. Last session, when Joe introduced legislation on Indian mascots in public schools, and in-state tuition for Indian students in Colorado colleges and universities, he was not only attacked in the media, but his wife and children were threatened and regularly verbally attacked. For his commitment to end Columbus Day, Joe will be attacked, perhaps even more viciously. We must stand with him and protect him and his family, because the sell-outs and the self-interested, have not, and will not, defend him. We must rise to that task and show him that Colorado AIM will stand with and defend our friends who try to defend and protect us, and our future generations. I know that you will join me in this effort. I look forward to seeing you all, soon, and on strategizing to end this racist scourge of Columbus Day in our homeland, once and for all.”