New Mexico Will Officially Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day Instead Of Columbus Day

Published April 4, 2019
Updated August 14, 2020
Published April 4, 2019
Updated August 14, 2020

Indigenous Peoples' Day will replace Columbus Day as a public holiday to appreciate and recognize the history of the Native Americans.

New Mexico

Ken Lund/FlickrA New Mexico border sign.

When antiquated traditions die, new and often better ones usually take their place. In a historic legislative move, New Mexico has recently passed a bill that officially recognizes what was formerly known as Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead throughout the state.

The bill was signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state will here on out publically celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the day formerly known as Columbus Day.

“For many years, Indigenous people have protested Columbus Day because it celebrates colonialism, oppression, and injustice inflicted on Indigenous peoples,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said. “Observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day allows citizens to recognize our rich heritage and represents a step toward healing and growth.”

According to the Navajo Post, the state’s Native American communities celebrated the long overdue passage of the law.

New Mexico’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day bill, technically known as House Bill 100, was approved by the New Mexico State Legislature in March. But before the law even made the holiday legitimate, however, the state’s native tribes had already begun to act on their own volition to reclaim Columbus Day. Nez signed off on a proclamation to declare the holiday Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead for his people in 2017.

Navajo tribe leaders said that they hope the renaming of the public holiday will inspire people and especially the Navajo youth. The renewed holiday is also intended to be a reminder to the public of the country’s true history and instill it with an appreciation for Indigenous culture.

Santa Fe Cathedral

Pedro Szekely/FlickrThe Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The movement to rename Christopher Columbus Day has been gaining steam in recent years as historians and Native American advocates alike struggle to oppose a holiday which celebrates the unconscionable brutality against the Indigenous people by the Italian explorer. Now, more cities and states like New Mexico in the U.S. have begun to implement the change into law. Indeed, New Mexico is now the fifth state to change the holiday to one that recognizes Native Americans were long on this land before Columbus invaded it.

Other states that have already made the public holiday change official are Alaska, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Vermont. Locally, there are already at least 60 cities in the U.S. that now officially refer to Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Native American Bead Worker

Don Graham/FlickrNative American bead seller in New Mexico.

The Native American population in New Mexico is estimated to be 12 percent of the state population, and there are currently 23 Indigenous tribes that exist there. Thus, the new law is a part of a larger effort on behalf of Indigenous activists to raise awareness of the genocides committed against Native Americans and protect their rights.

According to the El Paso Times, activists in Santa Fe recently lobbied the city to discontinue the annual re-enactment of a 17th Century Spanish conquistador reclaiming the city.

Following the campaigns to halt the outdated tradition, Rep. Derrick Lente, one of the sponsors of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day bill, said that Columbus’ expeditions of the Americas had resulted in a violent legacy in U.S. history.

“The shift to Indigenous Peoples’ Day sends a strong message to the descendants of the people who once were sought to be extinguished that there’s a renewed appreciation for their resiliency and contribution to our great state,” Lente continued. “It is a time to reflect on our understanding of our country’s history, both the good and the bad.”

Next up, take a look at these 22 facts about Christopher Columbus that everyone gets wrong. Then, learn about this hideous practice of colonial times which saw Indigenous peoples forced into human zoos.

Natasha Ishak
Natasha Ishak is a staff writer at All That's Interesting.