New Mexico is among a handful of states celebrating their first Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday as part of a trend to move away from a day honoring Christopher Columbus.
New Mexico and at least four other states along with Washington, D.C., have done away with Columbus Day celebrations in deference to Native Americans, though the federal Columbus Day remains in place.
Since 1992, Native American advocates have pressed states to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day over concerns that Columbus helped launched centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas.
New Mexico is marking its statewide Indigenous Peoples Day with an invocation by several tribal leaders in unison in their native languages. There was also a parade and traditional dances at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque.
“I think it’s great and it’s about time,” said All Pueblo Council of Governors Chairman E. Paul Torres, a member of Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico.
The change to Indigenous Peoples Day prompted some backlash in conservative circles and among Italian Americans. But Native Americans have welcomed the change and said it was time to pay homage to Native Americans instead of Columbus.
Democratic New Mexico state Rep. Derrick Lente of Sandia Pueblo, the sponsor of the New Mexico legislation that changed the holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day, said the day allows reflection on the United States’ complicated history. Adopting the holiday, he said, provides some restorative justice for indigenous communities.