New Mexico Senate Replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day

‘I see this as a reconciliation process, not only as New Mexicans but as Americans…’

New Mexico Senate Votes to Change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day

A monument to Christopher Columbus in Barcelona, Spain / PHOTO: andryn2006 (CC) via Flickr

(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) The New Mexico state legislature voted to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day last week in an attempt to promote a “reconciliation process” with the state’s American Indian populations.

In a 22-15 vote, the state Senate sent the bill to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Democrats expect Grisham to sign the bill, adding New Mexico to the list of growing states that have eliminated Columbus Day as a state holiday.

“I see this as a reconciliation process, not only as New Mexicans but as Americans,” said state Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Jemez Pueblo, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Shendo said reminders of European colonialism are harmful to relationships with the state’s minorities—including Native Americans, who make up 12 percent of New Mexico’s population.

However, many state lawmakers disapproved of the change.

“I think this bill is more about dividing us than bringing us together,” state Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, said.

A few senators attempted to reach a compromise: State Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, proposed changing Columbus Day to Immigrant and Indigenous Peoples’ Day to celebrate all groups, but the Senate rejected the proposal. And state Sen. Greg Baca, R-Belen, proposed creating a new holiday for Indigenous Peoples Day rather than eliminating an existing one.

State Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, said Columbus’s journey to America is an important historical event that deserves recognition, regardless of today’s political biases.

Columbus was “the first step to all the great things we have today,” Sharer said, while acknowledging that the Genoese explorer left behind a flawed and complex legacy.

“To the victor goes the spoils,” Sharer said. “But we are still here today.”

The senators who approved of the bill, however, said Indigenous Peoples Day better suits the state.

“I think this is quite fitting for New Mexico,” said state Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque.

State Sen. Craig Bandt, R-Rio Rancho, said the change disrespects the hundreds of thousands of other immigrant groups, like Italian Americans, who observe Columbus Day as a way to celebrate their move to the U.S.

“You are saying [Columbus] doesn’t matter,” Brandt said.