Arizona House looks to honor cowboys with own holiday, despite protests

2013-03-26T00:00:00Z 2013-03-26T10:02:39Z Arizona House looks to honor cowboys with own holiday, despite protestsHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
March 26, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - Calling them an important part of Arizona history, a divided state House voted Monday to create an official National Day of the Cowboy.

The 44-14 vote came after supporters said they want to honor the role that cowboys have played and continue to play in Arizona.

"The history of our state is exemplified by the characteristics of the hard life of the cowboy," said Rep. Doris Goodale, R-Kingman. And Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, talked about the state's "proud rich history of obtaining this land" along with "a little bit of folklore" of the American cowboy.

Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Cameron, said she has no problem honoring the cowboy as a particular way of life or even an occupation. In fact, she voted for the measure when it was introduced in committee.

But Peshlakai, a member of the Navajo Nation, said after Monday's vote she could not support the proposal in its final floor vote, not because of what it said, but perhaps because of what was left unsaid.

Some of it, she said, was the idea of singling out cowboys for recognition in a state that has no specific day honoring Native American nations.

But Peshlakai said there's more to the concept of "cowboy" than someone who rides horses and herds cattle. "The necessity of the cowboy was to clear out the West and create the westward expansion for the people that colonized this nation, the United States," she said. And that, Peshlakai said, makes such an honor a problem for those like her who are American Indians - and whose tribes found the cowboys of history not to be friends.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said it's wrong to look at the measure this way.

"Cowboy doesn't denote a certain ethnic race," she said.

"There are cowboys in every race," Townsend said. "With that in mind, let us celebrate that spirit of getting out there and taking care of our livestock, our farms, no matter where you come from."

Rep. Jonathan Larkin, D-Glendale, did not see it that way. He said such a resolution ignores the diversity of the state.

Goodale responded that any legislator is free to introduce any measure saluting a day for any specific cause or group.

Peshlakai said she will keep that in mind next session when she may sponsor legislation creating a Native American day. And she is considering having that set on Oct. 12 - the same day that Columbus is said to have sighted the New World in 1492.

If the measure is approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, the National Day of the Cowboy would be celebrated on the fourth Saturday each July, but it would not be a legal holiday.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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