Gallup activists: Changing holiday an ‘important step’

Crowd carrying banner and sign on sidewalk next to empty street.

Navajo Times | Ravonelle Yazzie
Hermayne Smith and Kyon Benally hold a banner in front of a Chief Manuelito statue in Gallup during an Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration Monday.


Local activist Mervyn Tilden was standing alone for the first five years of the annual demonstration he created for Indigenous Peoples Day.

“It’s good to see this turnout after all this length of time,” Tilden said of the crowd of about 30 that showed up Monday. This year will mark the ninth year of the Indigenous Peoples Day demonstration in front of the Gallup Cultural Center and the second year that Gallup has recognized the new holiday.

In 2016, Tilden went before the Gallup City Council to ask them to pass a resolution that would establish Indigenous Peoples Day in lieu of Columbus Day. It passed and this year the city reaffirmed its support for Indigenous Peoples Day through a proclamation on Sept. 26. “It was real tough,” Tilden said, “especially going in front of the city council last year and getting the resolution passed.”

On Monday, the city didn’t have the day off, said Al Abeita, the city clerk. However, county, state and federal entities were closed in observance of Columbus Day.

The Navajo Nation hasn’t recognized the holiday since the ’90s. The Navajo Nation Council removed it as a holiday and instead created Navajo Nation Family Day that is celebrated on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day.

This year Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez signed a proclamation that declared the second Monday in October Indigenous Peoples’ Day, according to a press release.

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Categories: News

About Author

Pauly Denetclaw

Pauly Denetclaw is Meadow People born for Towering House People. She was raised in Manuelito and Naschitti, New Mexico. She was the co-recipient of the Native American Journalist Association's 2016 Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Reporting. Denetclaw is currently finishing her degree in multimedia journalism from the University of New Mexico - Main. Denetclaw covers a range of topics including genetic research, education, health, social justice issues and small businesses. She loves coffee, writing and being with her family. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Her handle is @pdineclah