ALBUQUERQUE (AP) – Outgoing Albuquerque City Council President Rey Garduno is calling for the city to celebrate the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Albuquerque doesn’t observe Columbus Day, the official holiday recognized by the federal and state government as falling on the second Monday in October, reported The Albuquerque Journal. Garduno, a Democrat, doesn’t mind that.
He told the Journal on Thursday that anyone who thinks Columbus discovered anything “needs to take a refresher course in history.”
“So Columbus ‘discovers’ America and the indigenous people who were already here are thankful because now they know where they live?” he said. Garduno says American Indians think of Columbus as someone who ushered in centuries of genocide.
He read a ceremonial announcement on Wednesday night that called for recognizing indigenous people instead, an initiative that has been promoted by a group called the Red Nation.
Red Nation co-founder Melanie Yazzie said observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day acknowledges the “resistance and resilience of native peoples, and sends the clear message that it’s not OK to celebrate genocide.”
Albuquerque isn’t the only city to observe such a holiday. Several other cities either formally or informally celebrate indigenous people in October, including locations in Texas, Kansas, California, Michigan, Oregon and Washington.
Six councilors signed onto the proclamation, but three others — all Republican –declined to do so.
“I’m opposed to, not just this particular proclamation, but to all feel-good but don’t-do-anything political statements,” explained councilor Trudy Jones. “I believe it’s misguided and a misuse of a proclamation to make a political statement.”
Although she said Columbus Day is “rather foolish,” she believes Garduno’s proposal is “even less appropriate.”
Republican councilor Dan Lewis said the proclamation contained “inflammatory” language. He singled out a line in the first paragraph as particularly offensive for its use of the word “occupation.”
The sentence read: “Albuquerque recognizes the occupation of New Mexico’s homelands for the building of our City.”
Lewis said he would have considered supporting the proclamation if it was worded differently.
For his part, Garduno said the proclamation is “a human rights issue and a social justice issue.”