This past Friday a new group of activists, The Red Nation, and an estimated 80 community members endured snow flurries and cold temperatures for a press conference in front of Albuquerque’s City Hall to demand the city abolish Columbus Day.
New Mexico is home to a large population of Indigenous people with longstanding history of resistance against an oppressive government. The living conditions and national rights of Native people are still under unrelenting attack over 500 years later since Columbus first stepped foot on Indigenous land.
The press conference was held symbolically on the 42nd anniversary of Wounded Knee Liberation Day. On February 27, 1973 the American Indian Movement occupied the Wounded Knee Massacre site in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, which lasted for 71 days. It was initiated by AIM to spread awareness of historical and ongoing injustices to Indigenous people.
The Red Nation is a newly-formed coalition in Albuquerque composed of Native activists and allies to intervene in the struggle for Indigenous liberation against colonialism. The coalition formed as a response to the marginalization of Indigenous people in the mainstream social justice movement. The Red Nation provides a voice and a space to build a widespread movement against a racist, sexist system that profits from the exploitation of Native life and land all across the globe.
Leona Morgan (Diné), from The Red Nation and Diné No Nukes, stated, “We’re here to remember our ancestors who lost their lives so we could be here today.”
Nick Estes (Lakota), an organizer with The Red Nation, spoke about the history of genocide perpetrated against the Lakota at Wounded Knee in 1890 and ongoing police and community violence against Native poor and homeless in Albuquerque.”Symbolically, that’s what Columbus Day represents, ongoing violence and genocide against Native people on Native land,” he said.
“If South Dakota, a right-wing and racist state, can abolish Columbus Day, why can’t New Mexico?” asked Sam Gardipe (Pawnee/Sac and Fox), from The Red Nation and the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
Bianca Cowboy (Diné), from The Red Nation, a student, and a member of the UNM undergraduate senate, ASUNM, spoke about the violent history of Columbus and how ASUNM will be considering a resolution that would call on UNM administration to change Columbus Day on campus to “Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance & Resilience Day.”
“From the disproportionate violence that Indigenous people experience from citizens and cops here in Albuquerque, to the ongoing theft of Indigenous water rights by big cities and corporations through so-called ‘legal settlements’ that will ensure we are no longer able to live in our own homelands, to the horrifying impact of nuclear and uranium development in Indigenous communities,” Melanie Yazzie (Diné) stated on behalf of The Red Nation, “it is clear that Indigenous people must fight simply to survive.”
“The Red Nation stands with all Indigenous people and their accomplices in the defense of land and livelihood against this violence and, with you, reclaims Albuquerque as an Indigenous space,” she said.
Speaking against Columbus Day and the history of the Catholic Church in perpetuating injustices towards Indigenous peoples, Catholic Priest Frank Quintana with Ecumenical Catholic Communion said, “in repentance and reparation, I propose that non-Native people – especially Christians – unite in solidarity with indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere to impress upon Pope Francis, when he visits the U.S. in the fall, how important it is for him to revoke, in a formal ceremony with indigenous people, any Papal Bull, and all Church documents that gave authority to the archaic, erroneous, reprehensible, and anti Gospel teaching of The Doctrine of Discovery, which allowed the conquering and oppression of the indigenous peoples of this hemisphere, and the world over.”
District 6 and Albuquerque City Council President Rey Garduño supported Friday’s actions. He said, “There aren’t three cultures [in New Mexico]. There are two oppressors. Time to take that yoke off.”
“There is still a war being waged on Indigenous land,” Paige Murphy (Diné), from The Red Nation and the Party for Socialism and Liberation. “We’re not going to take it. We’re not going to be abused anymore. We’re still fighting. We’re still resisting.”
The rally ended with a round dance in celebration of Wounded Knee Liberation Day and the continued commitment of Indigenous peoples and their allies towards liberation across the Western Hemisphere.
The Red Nation plans to move forward with a coalition of community, student, and faith groups to work with the Albuquerque City Council to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with a day that honors Indigenous peoples and their centuries of resistance and existence. The group hopes to move this initiative to the state level.