Navajo Nation to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day

President says tribe no longer will acknowledge Columbus Day

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, right, and Vice President Jonathan Nez sign a proclamation on Oct. 2 recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day on tribal land.
  • The proclamation states the tribe recognizes a responsibility to highlight and honor indigenous beginnings, history, culture and contributions.
  • San Juan College will observe Indigenous Peoples Day for the second year in a row.
  • Several events are planned at the college throughout the week in honor of Indigenous Peoples Day.


FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation has joined the list of cities and communities in recognizing Monday as Indigenous Peoples Day.

Tribal President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez signed a proclamation on Oct. 2 declaring the second Monday of October Indigenous Peoples Day on the Navajo Nation.

While the day is widely observed as Columbus Day and as a federal holiday, it is not recognized as a paid holiday for tribal employees, according to the personnel policies manual on the tribe's Department of Personnel Management website.

Begaye said in a press release from his office that since the arrival of Europeans and Spaniards in the Americas, indigenous people have fought and struggled against colonization, genocide and forced removal but continue to exist with their traditions remaining intact.

"For these reasons, and to correct the terribly misguided history written against us, we will no longer acknowledge Columbus Day," Begaye said in the release.

The proclamation states the tribe recognizes a responsibility to highlight and honor indigenous beginnings, history, culture and contributions.

"Indigenous Peoples Day shall be an opportunity to celebrate the thriving cultures and positive values of Indigenous Peoples, and shall further be observed to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous Peoples," the proclamation states.

The decision by the two tribal leaders follows a proclamation issued on Sept. 26 for Farmington by Mayor Tommy Roberts declaring the city's observance of Indigenous Peoples Day.

This will be the second year San Juan College has acknowledged Indigenous Peoples Day.

Byron Tsabetsaye is director of the Native American Center and chair of the Indigenous Peoples Day planning committee, both at the college. The college will present several free events next week in conjunction with Indigenous Peoples Day. Tsabetsaye said the schedule lists guest speakers and presentations that share indigenous history, perspectives and lifestyles.

The opening ceremony for the college's celebration starts at 10 a.m. Monday in the Student Sun Lounge and features a hoop dance presentation by Tomas Hunt of Yellow World Production.

A lecture by George McGraw, founder and executive director of DigDeep, a nonprofit organziation that digs wells and installs water systems in homes on the Navajo Nation, will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Little Theatre.

There will be a film screening for "Run Hopi," which tells the story of the Hopi High School cross-country team, at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Little Theatre. After the screening, there will be a question-and-answer session with Juwan Nuvayokva, an assistant coach for the cross-country team.

The documentary "Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World" will be shown at 7 p.m. Friday in the Little Theatre. Admission is $5.

For more information about Indigenous Peoples Day events at the college, contact the Native American Center at 505-566-3623 or visit the San Juan College IPD Celebration Committee Facebook page.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.