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For people of Native American or Hispanic national origin, Columbus Day is far from a celebratory holiday. After all, despite all of the misinformation and hype surrounding Christopher Columbus, he is responsible for the enslavement and genocide of potentially millions of indigenous people across the Americas.
It remains a source of constant frustration that our country celebrates a national holiday recognizing a man known to be a very abominable human being. Now, New Mexico is setting the stage for renewed national discussion about this ridiculous and unnecessary holiday. On Tuesday April 2nd, 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill into law that designates the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The same law removes Columbus Day from the state’s list of official holidays.
The bill was initially proposed by Derrick Lente. He ran for the State House of Representatives on a platform that included the recognition of tribal sovereignty in New Mexico. The bill did ignite furious and emotional debate that eventually resulted in the passing of the bill. This year, New Mexico will officially recognize indigenous people on October 14th instead of Columbus.
New Mexico could help reignite debate about changing this holiday at a federal level. While many municipalities have already named the change, only South Dakota officially celebrates Native Americans Day instead. In other states, similar reforms are limited to specific towns or to the state simply not celebrating the holiday officially.
Acknowledging native people with a special holiday replacing a day commemorating a man who sparked a genocide would be one tiny step toward humane and decent policy in the United States. More accurate education around Columbus and the genocide of Native Americans is also necessary to begin a more honest and productive discussion about our nation’s past and its future.
For previous Ladybud articles about native rights, click here.