Indigenous Peoples Day is celebrated the second Monday of October, which is federally recognized as Columbus Day

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FARMINGTON — San Juan College kicked off its week-long celebrations of Native American culture today with dance and musical performances.  

The celebrations coincide with Indigenous Peoples Day — celebrated on the second Monday of October — a date federally recognized as Columbus Day.

This is the second year that the college has celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day.

Byron Tsabetsaye, the director of San Juan College's Native American Center, said Indigenous Peoples Day is about healing historical trauma.

During his opening address, Tsabetsaye highlighted the diversity of Native American tribes in the Four Corners area including Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Southern Ute and Jicarilla Apache.

"We're really spoiled to have that diversity in this area," he said.

Yellow World Production, a performance group based in Page, Arizona, performed at the opening ceremonies. While the three members of Yellow World Production are Navajo, they performed dances from other Native American cultures.

Joseph Secody, a member of Yellow World Production, said the group performed other cultures' dances to show that Native American people are still here. Secody said he recently attended a meeting in Washington, D.C., discussing why the majority of children in the United States believe Native American people no longer exist.

Secody said one of his goals is to increase awareness about Native American culture in the United States. He said Indigenous Peoples Day is a step forward toward gaining more notice for indigenous cultures.

Tomas Hunt, a performer with Yellow World Production, said Native Americans were historically discouraged from practicing their cultural traditions and speaking their languages.

"For the longest time, Native American people were pushed back and held back," he said.

Hunt said the history of oppression has created depression in Native Americans. He said Indigenous Peoples Day "could be a turning point needed for Native American people to crawl out of the ditches they're in right now."

San Juan College will host Indigenous Peoples Day events all week.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, George McGraw, director of DIGDEEP Water Project, will discuss access to clean water to remote parts of Navajo Nation. The presentation will be in the Student Sun Lounge.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, people can view the documentary film "Run Hopi" about the Hopi High School Cross Country team that has won 27 consecutive state titles. The presentation will be in the Student Sun Lounge.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, Erwin and Alma Rivera will discuss issues resulting from the conquest and colonization of the Americas during a lecture called "Aztlan Sin Fronteras." The presentation will be in the Student Sun Lounge.

At noon Friday, productions by Navajo film maker Kody Dayish will play in the Student Suns Lounge at San Juan College. Then, at 7 p.m. Friday, the Farmington Cinematheque Series will show "Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World" in the college's Little Theater. The documentary features Native American musicians and their influence on American music. The cost to view the documentary is $5.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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