New Mexico has officially dropped Columbus Day, instead naming the holiday Indigenous Peoples’ Day to honor the country’s Native population.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed legislation Tuesday to remove Columbus Day from the list of official state holidays and replace it with the new holiday after the state Senate passed the bill last month. The day falls on the second Monday in October and will continue to be a legal public holiday, just without honoring Christopher Columbus.
“This new holiday will mark a celebration of New Mexico’s 23 sovereign indigenous nations and the essential place of honor native citizens hold in the fabric of our great state,” the governor said in a statement, according to CNN. “Enacting Indigenous Peoples’ Day sends an important message of reconciliation and will serve as a reminder of our state’s proud native history.”
According to last year’s U.S. census estimates, about 10.9% of New Mexico’s population is indigenous (American Indian or Alaskan Native). President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer of the Navajo Nation commended Lujan Grisham for signing the bill into law.
“The federal government declared Columbus Day as a holiday without input from Native Americans and without knowing the true history of Native Americans. For many years, Indigenous people have protested Columbus Day because it celebrates colonialism, oppression and injustice inflicted on Indigenous peoples,” Nez said in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “Observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day allows citizens to recognize our rich heritage and represents a step toward healing and growth.”
The new holiday is part of a growing movement to review how the United States celebrates Columbus’ role in the country’s Colonial history. The Italian explorer, who never actually set foot in what is now the U.S., has a problematic reputation for dehumanizing and enslaving indigenous people, and ushering in centuries of genocide. Advocates of the new holiday say the country should be celebrating the Native community instead of a colonizer.
New Mexico is one of several states to rename the holiday Indigenous Peoples’ Day, joining Alaska, Minnesota, Vermont and Oregon. South Dakota calls the holiday Native Americans Day, Hawaii celebrates Discoverers’ Day and Nevada celebrates indigenous people on a different day. Multiple cities across the country also already celebrate indigenous people during the holiday. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) recently said she would absolutely support renaming the holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day on a federal level if she becomes president in 2020.