In celebration of the second annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the Democratic Party of New Mexico (DPNM) hosted a virtual celebration over Zoom and live on Facebook on Monday, Oct. 12.
Speakers included Native artists, New Mexico representatives Deb Haaland and Derrick Lente, New Mexico State Senator Shannon Pinto, Senate candidate Brenda McKenna, County Commission candidates Leah Ahkee Baczkiewicz, New Mexico Court of Appeals Judge Shammara Henderson and many other Democratic representatives.
During the live meeting, DPNM Native outreach organizer Kianna Holian said that Indigenous Peoples’ Day is important because “it recommits ourselves to ensuring that Native communities are able to have a direct say in our democracy. In these unprecedented times, it’s critical that we continue to vote, run for office and make our voices heard while remaining grounded in our culture and traditions.”
Haaland gave an impassioned speech about how Native Americans have a voice in politics and that they hold the power to make a change in their community.
“New Mexico is a role model for the rest of the country,” Haaland said, holding back tears. “Too often we have been told to quit, wait our turn or be satisfied with what we get, but we as Indigenous people, we know what’s best for our communities and that’s why we keep fighting.”
Haaland emphasized that “by dedicating this day to the strength and resilience of Indigenous peoples, we condemn those who have tried to erase us, and build strength through understanding.”
Representative Ben Ray Luján spoke about the Amber Alert system that failed when Ashlynne Mike went missing, as well as the importance of the Violence Against Women Act.
“We need support to end all the crimes about Native American women, our LGBTQ sisters and all women of the United States,” Luján said.
He said his purpose at the event was “to make sure we are making investments, not just in infrastructure but also education and housing and protecting sacred sites.”
On Oct. 9, representatives Haaland, Norma Torres, Tom Cole, Sharice Davids and Betty McCollum introduced a congressional resolution calling for “the official designation of the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of Columbus Day as a federal holiday.”
According to the press release, Indigenous Peoples’ Day was first proposed by a delegation of Native Nations in 1977. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill recognizing it as an official New Mexico state holiday last year.
The congressional resolution passed last year with support from the National Congress of American Indians, the President of the Navajo Nation, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Barona Band of Mission Indians, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians and the Episcopal Church.
“This Indigenous Peoples’ Day Resolution is an opportunity to honor the true nature of our founding and refocus a federal holiday on the incredible cultural contributions of Native peoples that have been absent from our celebrations until now,” Torres said.
Cameron Ward is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @xx_cameo_xx