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More than 500 years later, Christopher Columbus still defeated the indigenous Americans ­­­­— at least in the Utah Legislature.

The Senate on Tuesday voted 15-10 to kill a proposal to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day, making it a state holiday to honor the original Americans.

"It is meant as no disrespect to any holiday or any person, but our history did not start with Pioneer Days and the celebration we have then," said Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, the sponsor of SB170. "Before Father Escalante got here, before the LDS pioneers arrived, there weren't just people, there was a thriving, incredible, amazing civilization that was here and we do not pay tribute to that situation."

But senators objected to changing the holiday, calling it a "slap in the face" to Italian-Americans. Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, called Columbus a "great American hero."

Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, said other states have abandoned Columbus Day to recognize the "genocide" the explorer brought to the native people.

"You may choose to not recognize that and that's up to each individual. But [this says] the state of Utah recognizes the tribes that are here, that we eliminated a lot of them through the process of 'La Conguista,'" Escamilla said. "We need to acknowledge that historical piece. The state may say we're not ready. It won't be the first time. … We tend to have this history of taking 20 years later to do what's right."

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, countered that it is "inconceivable" that Columbus could have killed millions and said most died because of diseases like smallpox and others.

"The native population gave the early explorers syphilis, which they brought back to Europe. Blaming Columbus for the extermination of the native population is as fair as blaming the native population for people who die using tobacco and cocaine, which the natives introduced to the Europeans," Weiler said. "I'm not going to sit here and listen to history being rewritten. We have a great history in this country and can honor Columbus and our indigenous people without disparaging either side."

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, proposed calling the holiday "Columbus-Indigenous Peoples Day," but his amendment failed and the Senate went on to defeat Dabakis' bill.

Twitter: @RobertGehrke

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