‘Events like this teach us’

ABQ celebrates Indigenous People’s Day at cultural center

ALBUQUERQUE

A national shift began to take place in 1992 when Berkeley, California, ousted Columbus Day and replaced it with a celebration for a “Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People.”

Municipalities have been following Berkeley’s lead since.

Navajo Times | Photos by Colleen Keane
Saba, Diné/Jemez, prints an “Indigenous People’s Day 2017” T-shirt during the celebration on Monday at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.

Today, there are 55 cities across the country honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday of October, according to a recent Time Magazine report.

Albuquerque stepped up in 2015 after hundreds of people took to the streets and rallied in Civic Plaza.

They included tribal members from across the state and country; members of Red Nation, a Native advocacy organization; students from organizations like University of New Mexico’s Kiva Club and the National Coalition against Racism in Sports; and members of international human rights movements.

Soon after the citizen uprising, Indigenous Peoples’ Day of Resistance & Resilience was created through a city ordinance sponsored by former District 6 city councilor Rey Garduno.

Genesis Mullins, Diné, a 6th-grade student at Native American Community Academy, was thankful for the efforts that took place because the day recognizes the sacredness of indigenous culture and traditions.

“Today, we are taking back what was taken from us,” she said.

Sofia Lanyate, Zuni, also a 6th-grade NACA student, said the city should have stepped up earlier.
Lanyate recalled how she was instructed to draw pictures of Christopher Columbus when she was in elementary school.

Navajo Times | Photos by Colleen Keane
Genesis Mullins, Diné, and Sofia Lanyate, Zuni, students at the Native American Community Academy, write down what Indigenous People’s Day means to them at a public note-taking table at Indian Pueblo Cultural Center celebration on Monday.

“That doesn’t make sense,” she said. “He wasn’t a hero. He was violent against women.”

Events like the one on Monday at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and NACA studies have helped students learn the truth about the Italian colonizer.

According to historical research often left out of standard textbooks, including his own journals, Columbus is known to have committed atrocities against indigenous people of South and North America in his quest for land, gold and fame.

Mullins and Lanyate shared their thoughts during the celebration of the third annual celebration at IPCC on Monday.

“It’s an honor to be here,” said Mullins.

The daylong event featured music, dances and live art demonstrations.

Multi-media artist Ehren Kee Natay, Diné, and painter/printmaker Ruth Riley, Acoma, were given two hours to complete their paintings.

Both artists integrate indigenous teachings, beliefs and thoughts in their work.

In strokes of yellow, blue, orange and red, a sunrise evolved on Natay’s canvas.

He said the image, when completed, will reflect appreciation for traditional Diné teachings and contemporary mainstream knowledge.

“There’s places where they meet, where they agree,” he noted.

He said recently three scientists (Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young) won the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine for their work on circadian biology, more commonly known as the internal clock.

“They found extreme health benefits from being in sync with the cycle of the sun,” Natay said.
“One of our earliest teachings is watching the sun rise every morning, (for the same reasons),” he said.

Riley explained her work is inspired by ancestral pottery designs from her ancestors, the Anasazi.
She said it’s important for students to learn about traditional perspectives.

“Our culture is right here,” she said. “It’s living. It’s breathing.”

Making sure the day goes down in history, Saba, Diné/Jemez, set up his screen-printing equipment and rolled out “Indigenous People’s Day 2017” T-shirts with bold red lettering.

“I am doing the future traditional Native art of screen printing,” he said. “We are spreading our own messages, putting our identity on our chests to show indigenous folks are still alive!”

One of his customers, Brenda Wolfenbarger of Albuquerque, said she brought her daughter Opal, who is being homeschooled, to the celebration because she wants her to learn authentic history and not one-sided colonial textbook history.

“Events like this teach us,” she said.

“We want to educate people on the history and how resilient we are as Native peoples and still lasting today, through colonialism and imperialism,” said Leo Vicenti, Jicarilla Apache, the cultural center’s museum exhibit designer. “It is a great thing to celebrate.”

More cities are recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Los Angeles and Denver recently changed their calendars.

It looks like Silver City, New Mexico, Santa Barbara, California, and Miami County, Kansas, may be next.

But, Vicenti said, there’s still a lot to be done.

“It doesn’t happen overnight for people to learn about the true history and the effects that happened to Native people in the Americas,” he noted.

“We have an obligation to our mothers and fathers who gave everything for our continuation,” wrote well-known Acoma painter and potter Maurus Chino in his artist statement. “This obligation includes the memory of their sacrifice and retention of our indigenous identity.”

“As an artist and an activist, I present the indigenous view and give voice to the people,” stated Chino.

The IPCC expects to have thousands of visitors this week, the week of the Balloon Fiesta.

The events end on Sunday, Oct. 15 at 5 p.m.


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About Author

Colleen Keane

Colleen is a New Mexico freelance journalist who has been reporting for the Navajo Times since 2012. She primarily covers the Albuquerque area. Prior to working for the Times, she taught Journalism at Rock Point and Alamo Navajo communities. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Southern California. She can be reached at colleenannkeane@gmail.com