Indigenous Peoples Day

Champion dancer Larry Yazzie (Navajo/Meskwaki) leads Native Pride Dancers in an Eagle Dance; photo courtesy Tourism Santa Fe

A national trend to reimagine Columbus Day gained steam in New Mexico when on Sept. 26, Santa Fe County unanimously approved a proclamation declaring the second Monday in October “Indigenous Peoples Day.” The city of Santa Fe passed a similar resolution in 2016. Other New Mexico cities that avow the day include Albuquerque, Gallup, Grants, and Farmington.

Columbus Day remains a federal holiday in Santa Fe, which has no authority to change that, but the city joins a growing number of localities that have replaced or combined the day with one recognizing that people were already living in the Americas when Christopher Columbus arrived. One motivation is to transform a traditional celebration of colonialism into a chance to acknowledge a complex history and organize against what many see as current injustices.

Columbus Day first was recognized in 1937 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt made it a federal holiday; the Italian-American community had lobbied for its creation starting in the early 1900s. Acknowledging both aspects of the issue in a 2016 presidential proclamation, Barack Obama said, “As we reflect on the adventurers throughout history who charted new courses and sought new heights, let us remember the communities who suffered, and let us pay tribute to our heritage and embrace the multiculturalism that defines the American experience.”

On Saturday, Oct. 7, at 3:30 p.m., Santa Clara/Pojoaque Red Turtle Pueblo dancers will be on the Plaza, while intertribal Native Pride Dancers appear at the same time on Sunday, Oct. 8. Then on Monday, Oct. 9, Santa Fe’s Native American community members will showcase award-winning dancers, drummers, singers, musicians, and storytellers from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., also on the Plaza.

Event chair and past governor of the Pojoaque Pueblo George Rivera said, “Collaboration, recognition, and celebration are the focus of Indigenous Peoples Day. The event provides an opportunity for locals and visitors alike to experience Native culture and expand their knowledge and appreciation of indigenous communities in New Mexico.” The occasion is free; for more information, visit