Indigenous Peoples' Day bill moves to House floor

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Derrick Lente

FARMINGTON — A proposal to make Indigenous Peoples' Day a legal holiday in New Mexico and have it replace Columbus Day could be considered by the state House of Representatives this week.

Reps. Derrick Lente, D-Rio Arriba, Sandoval and San Juan, and Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, are sponsoring the proposal to rename the state holiday on the second Monday in October.

Lente said the proposal is not intended to change history but to acknowledge the resilience of Indigenous people.

New Mexico is home to 23 tribes and pueblos and is among the states that has a large Native American population.

Indigenous Peoples' Day recognizes that Native Americans are the first inhabitants of the Americas and recognizes the culture and history of Native Americans.

Lente explained support for the proposal started when he approached the interim Indian Affairs Committee, whose membership consists of Democratic and Republican representatives and senators, last summer.

He added that support continues as the bill makes its way through the legislative process.

The bill passed the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on Jan. 29 and the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on Feb. 1.

Lente said he anticipates the legislation will go before the full House this week.

If it passes the Senate process and is signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico would join Minnesota, Vermont and Alaska in replacing Columbus Day.

South Dakota removed Columbus Day as well and replaced it with Native Americans' Day.

The movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day in cities, states and universities has gained support in recent years.

Albuquerque, Gallup, Grants and Santa Fe recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day.

San Juan College recognizes Indigenous Peoples' Day with an event on campus while proclamations to observe it were issued in fall 2017 by the city of Farmington and by leaders of the Navajo Nation.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.