Michelle Lujan Grisham, the governor of New Mexico made something official on Tuesday. In New Mexico, Columbus Day will no longer be celebrated as a national holiday. The state has decided to celebrate indigenous peoples’ day instead, in honor of Native Americans. They are following the lead of Minnesota, Alaska, Vermont, and South Dakota.
Christopher Columbus has long been credited with discovering America. In reality, however, Leif Erickson, an Icelandic Explorer found the country some five centuries before Columbus. What Columbus actually did was start the European colonization of the Americas. Yes, it is significant but there is some controversy surrounding what Columbus did.
Many historians agree that Columbus and his men enslaved the Native Americans and treated them brutally. They were subjected to extreme acts of violence and deadly diseases were brought from Europe that wiped out entire populations of those Native Americans.
The bill was introduced by Derrick J. Lente and Andrea Romero, who are Democratic representatives. They thought that it would be a better reflection of the culture in New Mexico. “This day is an act of restorative justice for our Indigenous communities, and it is a time to reflect on our understanding of our country’s history, both the good and the bad,” Lente told the Navajo-Hopi Observer. “Mexico’s Nations, Tribes, and Pueblos are what truly make us the Land of Enchantment”
Columbus Day has been renamed Indigenous Peoples Day in the state of New Mexico. pic.twitter.com/NPIeQwMu6a— Ruth H. Hopkins (@RuthHHopkins) April 3, 2019
New Mexico’s House and Senate debated emotionally on the subject and finally approved the bill. Many Native Americans praised the lawmakers for their support, including Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.
“The federal government declared Columbus Day as a holiday without input from Native Americans and without knowing the true history of Native Americans,” Nez told the Navajo Post. “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.”
Today New Mexico @GovMLG signed HB250, a new law that looks to aid Native students. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Derrick Lente of Sandia Pueblo, mandates that schools research issues affecting Native students and then propose solutions at two public meetings per year. pic.twitter.com/GInUHAGNbJ— Aliyah Chavez (@AliyahJChavez) February 5, 2019
“Today, the ancestors are happy,” Representative Lente said. “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.”
“It is a time to reflect on our understanding of our country’s history, both the good and the bad,” Lente added. “New Mexico’s Pueblos, Tribes and Nations are what truly make us the Land of Enchantment. I applaud our Governor for signing this important bill into law so we can properly honor our Indigenous communities.”
The five states join at least 60 cities in the United States that now refer to the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.