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New Mexico celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, speaks at the 2020 Indigenous Peoples Day celebration hosted on Monday by the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. (Courtesy of Indian Pueblo Cultural Center)

This year’s Indigenous Peoples Day celebration hosted by the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center may have been virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the sentiment was the same: Native Americans will not be erased from New Mexico’s culture and history.

The day should serve as a time to recognize the individual stories of Native people, said New Mexico Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo.

Lente, along with Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, introduced the 2019 legislation to officially change the second Monday in October to Indigenous Peoples Day in New Mexico. Lente said he has since received emails, phone calls and letters from Indigenous people around the globe who support efforts to acknowledge the 23 tribes, pueblos and nations in New Mexico.

“Throughout the world, whether you’re fighting for your rainforest, fighting against the (exploitation) of your lands, whether you’re fighting for your clean water, your clean air, fighting to preserve your language or retain your identity, your culture and your religion, this day was for all of us,” Lente said. “It’s not just one day, but it’s every single day of our calendar year, we understand that we are Indigenous and we are proud to be Indigenous.”

The virtual event featured a flute solo by Navajo performer Andrew Thomas and dances by groups from Acoma, Zuni and Ohkay Owingeh pueblos. Acoma artisans Florida and Leland Vallo demonstrated pottery making. Bennard Dallasvuyuma, who is from the Hopi and Salt River Pima-Maricopa tribes in Arizona, made traditional jewelry.

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo, said learning about those who lived on the North American continent before European colonization “can build strength through understanding.”

“My hope is that Indigenous Peoples Day becomes a celebration of Native Americans’ resilience and all the contributions we’ve made to this country,” Haaland said. “Our long tradition of military service, our culture and traditions that are woven into New Mexico’s culture, our respect for the environment, our creative talents, our entrepreneurial spirit and our food.”

Jon Ghahate, a cultural educator at the museum and a member of Laguna and Zuni pueblos, spoke to the importance of including Native narratives in the study of American history.

“Our voices are just as important, just as relevant, and just as credible,” Ghahate said.

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