SANTA FE — New Mexico would become the fourth state in the nation to adopt an annual state Indigenous Peoples’ Day holiday — scrapping Columbus Day in the process — under a bill that passed the House by a 50-12 vote tonight.
Backers of the legislation, House Bill 100, said the observance of Columbus Day has long been an affront to Native Americans.
Changing the name of the holiday — celebrated on the second Monday of October — would change that, they said.
“Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes that Native Americans and indigenous communities are central to New Mexico’s rich and vibrant cultural history,” said Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, one of the bill’s sponsors.
He also said Christopher Columbus had left a legacy of murder, torture and rape of indigenous people during his four expeditions to the Americas.
But critics questioned the wisdom of doing away with Columbus Day.
Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, who said she has Cherokee ancestry, described the proposal as part of a broader push to remove controversial historical markers.
“I think we need to honor our past as well as look forward to our future,” she said.
Albuquerque already made a similar change in 2015, after a push from Native American activists, and the legislation moving forward in the Roundhouse would add New Mexico to the list of states — currently just South Dakota, Hawaii and Oregon — that have done away with Columbus Day.
Overall, Native Americans make up more than 12 percent of New Mexico’s total population, according to 2017 U.S. Census data.