Aspen city councilman pushes for renaming of Columbus Day

City Councilman Bert Myrin wants Aspen to treat Columbus Day similar to what cities such as Denver, San Francisco and just recently, Los Angeles, have already done: Change it to Indigenous Peoples Day.

For now, however, Myrin has not gained enough traction for the change to take effect by the time Columbus Day rolls around Oct. 9.

The first-term councilman has floated the idea at two recent City Council meetings, and he also has taken to Facebook to gauge public opinion.

Last year, Myrin’s proposal didn’t get much traction, so he has intensified his efforts to persuade city staff members and elected officials this time around.

At the council’s most recent meeting Aug. 28, Myrin again pressed the council and city officials about changing the name of the national holiday, which celebrates the explorer’s touchdown in the Americas in October 1492. It was the second time Myrin brought it up this year after his failed attempt in 2016.

“If there’s no support then it will end this year again as a dead end,” he said.

Council members said they were on board with Myrin’s request of city staff to look further into his proposal — which could include keeping Columbus Day and adding Indigenous Peoples Day to the calendar, or replacing Columbus Day with the new holiday. Or nothing could change.

Denver, for example, recognizes the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day in honor of Native Americans. It no longer recognizes Columbus Day.

Colorado, however, still treats Columbus Day as a legal state holiday.

In an Aug. 21 email to Sara Ott, an assistant city manager, Myrin wrote that the city’s website delves into Aspen’s early history by noting that “First christened Ute City, the town of 300 residents was renamed to Aspen in 1880.”

Myrin’s email also referenced a visit to City Council in December from Chief Ah-Tave, a full-blooded Ute and a descendant of Chief Ouray and Chipeta.

At that meeting, the chief urged the council to do its part in respecting the mountains and honoring their Native American predecessors.

“The mountaintops are your watershed,” the chief told council members. “They feed the valleys below. The impact is so significant to our lifestyle, and the mountains lured you here. That’s why we’re all here — to live amongst these mountains, and my people took only what they could take, and now I ask you to remember those people.”

Mayor Steve Skadron, when asked about Myrin’s proposal, declined to comment.

But at last week’s meeting he told Myrin, “Bert, I’ll support the investigation of it,” and left it at that.

Last week the Los Angeles City Council voted 14-1 to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. The lone dissenting voter argued that Columbus Day celebrates the national heritage of Italian-Americans. Others, however, view Columbus as an icon in the mass killings of American peoples.