Padilla Joins Heinrich, Luján, Torres in Introducing Bicameral Legislation To Commemorate, Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) joined Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) as well as U.S. Representative Norma Torres (D-Calif.) in introducing legislation to replace the official holiday recognized on the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The bill would also replace any mention of Columbus Day in all federal laws or regulations with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

At least 13 states and more than 100 cities have recognized this change, including California and Washington, D.C. In 2019, California first proclaimed Indigenous Peoples’ Day in celebration of the Indigenous people who call California home. California is home to one of the largest populations of Native Americans in the country.

“It is long past time that the we formally recognize and commemorate the contributions of Indigenous people throughout the country,” said Senator Padilla. “As our nation continues to reflect and reckon with our past, this legislation is a small step towards honoring the resilience and recognizing the trauma of Indigenous people. I proudly stand in solidarity with the hundreds of Indigenous communities and hundreds of thousands of Native Americans that live throughout California and across the country in advancing justice and equity.”

“By celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we lift up the strength and resilience of America’s Tribal Nations,” said Heinrich. “I’m proud to stand with New Mexico’s Tribes and Pueblos who have led the way to re-frame this national holiday to honor all of the significant contributions and diverse cultures of our Native communities.”

“I’m proud to help lead the effort in the Senate to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day – an important recognition of Native Americans’ contributions to our society, economy and history,” said Luján, a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “New Mexico, which is home to 23 Tribal Nations and Pueblos, made history in 2019 by recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day as an official holiday, and I’m hopeful that Congress can make this a reality for the entire nation. Let this day serve as a celebration of our country’s Tribal Nations and Native communities, and a reminder of the work ahead, to continue to strengthen and improve the federal government’s relationship with Tribal governments and Indigenous peoples.”

“My Indigenous People’s Day legislation is an opportunity to honor the true nature of our founding,” said Torres. “This legislation helps our federal government move beyond an outdated practice that perpetuates inaccurate teachings and devalues the history of indigenous people. This holiday should be focused on honoring the hardships that indigenous people endured when they arrived and celebrating our country’s real history.”

The legislation is supported by the Indigenous People’s Day Initiative, the National Council of Urban Indian Health, the National Congress of American Indians, the Association of American Indian Affairs, the Navajo Nation, and the All Pueblo Council of Governors.

“If the United States chooses to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we acknowledge a history marked by broken promises, violence, and deprivation in hopes of creating a brighter future where we can stand by one another with cooperation and mutual respect. By knowing the story of Indigenous Peoples, we understand ourselves and others better. It binds us together and reaffirms that we are all American. The Native American experience is not separate from the American story, but is crucial to that story. It is the hope of my community that this day will help alleviate the effects of oppression and work to create future generations who understand the importance of our shared experiences in hopes of creating a stronger, more unified nation,” said Dylan O. Baca, President of the Indigenous Peoples’ Initiative.

“For generations, Indigenous communities throughout the Americas have fought to survive colonization, assimilation, disease, and even genocide. Many of these same atrocities continue today, but the Native peoples of this land continue to be resilient, strong, and prosperous. Recognition of Indigenous People’s Day will help our future generations hold onto our identity and ensure the survival of our cultures, languages, and indigeneity. I believe that the name change from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day will provide young Navajo children with a sense of pride in the beauty they hold within,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathon Nez.

“Indigenous People’s Day is long overdue as a recognized Federal holiday. We are honored that this bill recognizes American Indian/Alaska Native culture instead of celebrating the atrocities that persisted during colonization. It is pertinent that the resilient history and culture of AI/AN people is reflected correctly and is not devalued by colonial narratives.” said Francys Crevier, (Algonquin) CEO National Council of Urban Indian Health.

“We are grateful that Congress is taking this important step forward to acknowledge the contributions and struggles of Indigenous Peoples in the United States. Every opportunity we have to share the truth of our collective histories gives all of us a stronger foundation from which to build a true representative democracy. And we cannot know the truth without first acknowledging the original – and continuing – caretakers of this Turtle Island,” said Shannon O’Loughlin (Choctaw), Chief Executive & Attorney at the Association on American Indian Affairs.

In addition to Senator Padilla (D-Calif.), the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Smith (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

In the House, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Suzan K. DelBene (D-Wash.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), and Sharice L. Davids (D-Kan.).

Read the full text of the bill here.

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