Could Indigenous Peoples Day catch on New Mexico?

The Taos News asked Gov. Susan Martinez during a visit Thursday (Oct. 8) whether the state might follow Albuquerque's lead and rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

Rick Romancito
Posted 10/12/15

Christopher Columbus did not discover America, but that hasn’t stopped generations from celebrating that bit of fiction with a three-day weekend. However, as American Indian activists have kept up the clarion call to unite forward-thinking …

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Could Indigenous Peoples Day catch on New Mexico?

The Taos News asked Gov. Susan Martinez during a visit Thursday (Oct. 8) whether the state might follow Albuquerque's lead and rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

Posted

Christopher Columbus did not discover America, but that hasn’t stopped generations from celebrating that bit of fiction with a three-day weekend. However, as American Indian activists have kept up the clarion call to unite forward-thinking citizens to recognize not only this widely acknowledged false “discovery” but Columbus’ complicity in the subsequent enslavement and destruction of Native cultures, some cities and states have chosen to abolish the designation.

The City of Albuquerque, just last week, voted to celebrate “Indigenous Peoples Day” on Oct. 12 instead of Columbus Day, joining other cities such as Seattle, Wash.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Lawrence, Kan.; and Portland, Ore. The state of South Dakota celebrates Native American Day. Hawaii has no celebration.

With New Mexico boasting one of the largest populations of Native people in the nation, The Taos News asked Gov. Susana Martinez during a visit Thursday (Oct. 8) whether the state might follow Albuquerque's lead and rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

But the governor did not have a definitive answer and she appeared to be taken off guard by the question (listen to an MP3 of the exchange).

“Oh, I don’t, ah, I’ve been so concentrated on the tourism and all of the economic development and announcements that we’re ready to make, really good ones, that I haven’t discussed that with the mayor (of Albuquerque) or why he did it or what happened,” Martinez said.

When pressed if that was something she might consider, Martinez replied, “You know, I don’t know, I haven’t given it any thought at all. It’s not anything that I haven’t — I’m concentrating on making sure we got jobs and jobs and jobs, for everyone.”

Martinez was visiting Taos to promote New Mexico’s tourism marketing campaign and newly released statistics touting a reported $6.1 billion spent by tourists, $235 million of which landed in Taos County coffers.

Taos Mayor Dan Barrone was a bit more forthcoming, at least as far as the town of Taos is concerned. Asked if the possibility of changing the designation from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day might be something he’d consider, Barrone said, “I don’t know. We can look at that. If somebody can bring it to us, we can put it on our agenda.”

In the meantime, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (IPCC) in Albuquerque is planning a full day of activities for Indigenous People’s Day, an annual event to be held every second Monday of October.

“We commend the City Council for taking this bold step to honor the sovereignty and legacy of indigenous nations,” said Travis Suazo, IPCC’s Director of Museum and Cultural Engagement in a prepared statement. “We invite the community to join us in celebrating this historic victory and to lend their voices to countering the narrative about indigenous people that is perpetuated by Columbus Day.”

In a press release, the Indigenous People’s Day celebration is described to explore the cultural survival of Pueblo people and the importance of telling the Pueblo story from a Pueblo perspective. The IPCC’s event schedule includes a screening of the documentary “Surviving Columbus,” directed by Diane Reyna of Taos Pueblo. This Emmy-winning film explores contact with Europeans from a Pueblo perspective plus Pueblo people’s centuries-long struggle to preserve their culture, land and religion. This will be followed by a discussion of the film with journalist Conroy Chino (Acoma) and University of New Mexico professor Dr. Glenabah Martinez (Taos-Diné).

“‘Surviving Columbus’ captured the Pueblo perspective on a series of historic events where none seemed to exist in the American consciousness, let alone the classroom,” said Chino. “It's important to remember and recount how Pueblo People survived. It should be a frequent storytelling experience. The past, when revealed, often provides a perspective that helps us understand the present in order to shape a better future.”

  • Taos News reporter Rick Romancito asked Gov. Susana Martinez during a visit Oct. 8, 2015 whether she would consider changing the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

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