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Colorado Native Americans see hope in New Mexico's switch from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day

New Mexico joins Minnesota, Alaska, Vermont and Oregon in replacing Columbus Day. Denver, Boulder and Durango have done similar things in the state.

DENVER — New Mexico became the fifth state in the U.S. to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.

Some Democrats have supported a similar proposal here in Colorado, but their efforts fell short (only cities Durango, Denver and Boulder have ordinances celebrating the day). 

Still, some Native Americans in Colorado told 9NEWS that having a neighboring state make the change gives them hope.

Donna Chrisjohn is a member of the Denver American Indian Commission - a group that works to advocate for Native Americans in the city and improve conversations between their community and city officials. Chrisjohn said she was pleased with what our neighbors to the south have done.

"To know that they took the initiative to honor the indigenous people there in New Mexico and to honor the history that has happened not only in New Mexico but in the United States - that's a huge victory for all of us," she said. 

She said one of her goals is to have an acknowledgment of indigenous people in Colorado.

"It might seem minor, but I think it is huge," Chrisjohn said. "It makes us reevaluate what we do know, what is fictional and allows us to have that conversation on so many levels."

Colorado's legislation has had the Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day conversation over the years, but a change has never passed out of the General Assembly. Chrisjohn said there was a bill in the state Senate this year, but it died in committee.

Many Italian-Americans are against an Indigenous Peoples Day bill, saying it would take away from their culture and heritage. A Columbus Day committee holds an annual parade in Denver each year as a kind of Italian Pride.

"The end goal is to have some sort of transformation of how we honor each other," Chrisjohn said. "How we honor each other's people and each other's past."

New Mexico joins Minnesota, Alaska, Vermont and Oregon in replacing Columbus Day. Besides the three Colorado towns that have switched to Indigenous Peoples Day, so has Seattle.