Last week on Monday, October 8th, 2018, morning prayer was held at 9:30am at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in celebration of Indigenous People’s Day. After prayer, the Pueblo Cultural Center hosted native dancers from the Pueblos of Zuni, Taos, Santa Clara, Jemez, San Felipe, Acoma, and San Ildefonso—as well as artists from Navajo Nation and other tribes to honor the indigenous heritage of Native Americans in New Mexico. Nationally, many people celebrated Indigenous People’s Day similar to that held at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, memorializing their celebrations with the hashtag: #weshallcontinue.
The second Monday of October has traditionally been recognized holiday commemorating the anniversary of European explorer Christopher Columbus’s arrival to the Americas. While Columbus Day was historically honored as a day of celebrating Italian and colonial heritage in the U.S., it has gained notoriety among many communities as an improper historical tribute to the oppression, colonization, assimilation, and removal of Native peoples. Acknowledging this, the City of Albuquerque passed a policy encouraging the City, “to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day” as a time “to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous people on this land, and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that our Indigenous nations add to our City.”
In its 2015 proposal of an Annual Recognition of Indigenous People’s Day, Albuquerque City Council provided, in part, that:
[I]ndigenous nations with advanced, civilized societies have existed in the area of central New Mexico where the City is now situated since time immemorial; and… in an effort to reveal a more accurate historical record of the “discovery” of the United States of America, representatives from 120 Indigenous nations at the First Continental Conference on 500 years of Indian Resistance, unanimously passed a resolution to transform the Second Monday of October into an occasion to recognize the contributions of Indigenous people despite enormous efforts against native nations; and….[because] Albuquerque has a strong history throughout the years of supporting the American Indian Community and its citizens advancement in our current society[,] [t]he City shall recognize the second Monday of October as “Indigenous People’s Day.”
Albuquerque is not alone in its change in municipal policy. In 2016, Santa Fe City Council followed suit, honoring the neighboring Tribes, Nations, and Pueblo’s in 2016. Outside the state, many cities and municipalities have also opted to officially recognize Indigenous Peoples Day as a state legislative alternative to Columbus Day, or municipal policy similar to that of the City of Albuquerque. In fact, Indian Country Today, a digital news platform, found that “60 cities (and counting), four states (Minnesota, Vermont, Alaska and South Dakota) and many college and university campuses officially declared the second Monday of October as Indigenous People’s Day.”
Most celebrations included guest speakers, pow wow’s, feasts, and music similar those pictured in Albuquerque’s Indian Pueblo Cultural Center photos; others focused on education and health, and offereds legal assistance to native peoples. Regardless of how states and municipalities chose to recognize Indigenous People’s Day over Columbus Day this, the #weshallcontinue hashtag message echoed resounding support and acknowledgement of resilience among Indigenous communities around Nation.
About me: Dominique Oliver is a third-year law student originally from Oakland, CA. After serving in the armed forces for over a decade, she decided to attend UNM School of Law. In May 2019, she will graduate with both a J.D. and a certificate in Indian Law. Dominique currently serves as a staff member for the Trial Law Journal and is also a fellow for the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project.
- Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Indigenous Peoples Day, https://www.indianpueblo.org (last visited Oct. 8th, 2018).
- CR-15-261, City of Albuquerque, Legislation, https://cabq.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2486922&GUID=9A0EBD70-7C45-41D2-9875 602C49B6D7A2&Options=ID%7CText%7C&Search=indigenous&FullText=1 (last visited Oct 9th, 2018).
- Indian Country Today, It’s a Good Day to be Indigenous! A list of Indigenous People’s Day Event, https://newsmaven.io/indiancountrytoday/news/60-cities-growing-a-list-of-indigenous-people-s-day-celebrations-this-weekend-6q820YDFykOi9igt00JURQ/.
Photos: Flyer and Dancers; Credit: Pueblo Indian Cultural Center via website and social media.