ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Monday is officially known as Columbus Day perfederal law and New Mexico state law.
However, there is a growing push in many U.S. cities to change the holiday to honor Native Americans instead and some think change could soon happen in New Mexico.
State lawmakers failed to change the name of Columbus Day once before, but now a Native American New Mexico lawmaker says she thinks there’s enough momentum to make a change.
Many Native Americans are celebrating the recent renaming of Columbus Day in Seattle and Minneapolis as a big step towards progress.
“For once, somebody is listening to us!” said one Native American woman in Seattle.
Now, a state representative with Native American heritage, Democrat Georgene Louis says there’s a good chance that our state could follow suit.
“I personally don’t believe it’s a day that we should celebrate or even acknowledge Christopher Columbus on this day,” said Louis.
A first-time state representative, Louis says she’ll support any effort in the upcoming 2015 legislative session to rename Columbus Day for indigenous people.
“It’s definitely a time to have that discussion for change right now,” said Rep. Louis.
The discussion first hit the New Mexico Legislature in 2007. A bill to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Day came up, but never went to a full vote. There may be more support now though, however. At the University of New Mexico on Monday, protesters hung eviction notices, saying the campus is on stolen land. They also flew pro-Native American banners from buildings while marching with signs reading “F*** Columbus.”
“New Mexico benefits a lot from indigenous imagery and indigenous culture,” said Brandon Benallie, a member of the Navajo Nation.
Benallie thinks erasing Columbus Day in New Mexico could be one of the most meaningful in the U.S., with 11 percent of the state’s population being Native American.
“I think Albuquerque and New Mexico has the advantage of saying we do respect our indigenous relatives, we do respect our indigenous neighbors,” said Benallie.
Representative Louis agrees, saying she thinks it would be a respectful thing to do.
“Being a kid in elementary school and you find out what he did and the things that were done to Native Americans, you know, you have this question about your own self and your own culture and your own identity,” said Louis.
Representative Louis says she isn’t drafting a bill right now, but she says she will consider it in the near future.
As for Albuquerque, City Councilor Rey Garduño told KRQE News 13 that he’s wants to create a bill to change Columbus Day. A spokeswoman for Mayor R.J. Berry said the mayor would “look into the issue,” however, he didn’t have a stance either way at this point.