Earlier this week, New Mexico officially severed ties with Columbus Day. On Tuesday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill replacing the longstanding holiday honoring the Italian colonizer with a day celebrating the state’s indigenous community.
Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas in 1492. In 1934, the second Monday of October was declared a federal holiday celebrating what many refer to as the start of European colonialism in North America.
Grisham, the state’s democratic governor, said she was “proud” to legalize the new holiday. Indigenous People’s Day will remain a legal public holiday and will fall on the second Monday of October.
New Mexico now joins Minnesota, Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota, Oregon, and Vermont in officially replacing the October holiday. Dozens of cities across the country have also opted to celebrate Indigenous People’s Days, or variations of it.
Native American leaders, including Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer, praised Governor Grisham’s decision. Many feel the change is long overdue and they hope the new holiday will inspire residents of New Mexico to learn the history of the Diné people.
Nez said in a statement posted to Facebook:
“The federal government declared Columbus Day as a holiday without input from Native Americans and without knowing the true history of Native Americans. For many years, Indigenous people have protested Columbus Day because it celebrates colonialism, oppression, and injustice inflicted on Indigenous peoples. Observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day allows citizens to recognize our rich heritage and represents a step toward healing and growth.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – State of New Mexico replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ DayWINDOW ROCK – Navajo…
The bill was introduced earlier this year. The measure was approved by the House in March and after New Mexico’s state Senate voted 22-15 in favor of the bill, it was sent to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to sign.
Two state representatives introduced the bill in hopes the change may pave the way for residents to better honor the state’s history and culture. New Mexico’s Native American population currently hovers around 12 percent, with 23 tribes residing within its borders.
Critics of the bill, including state Sen. Craig Brandt, have attested that the change will show disrespect to the Italian American community in New Mexico, which only accounts for approximately 2 percent of the state’s population.
“I see this as a reconciliation process, not only as New Mexicans but as Americans,” said Senator Benny Shendo.
“This new holiday will mark a celebration of New Mexico’s 23 sovereign indigenous nations and the essential place of honor native citizens hold in the fabric of our great state,” Governor Grisham said. “Enacting Indigenous Peoples’ Day sends an important message of reconciliation and will serve as a reminder of our state’s proud native history.”
Goodbye Christopher Columbus. Hello celebration of North America’s indigenous communities.
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