Today, for the first time, Albuquerque commemorated the second Monday in October as “Indigenous People’s Day.” It was a decision not without controversy when the City Council, on October 7th, 2015, declared the celebration to take place instead of the national holiday.
It probably comes as no surprise that the city of Albuquerque, which has the highest concentration of Native people in the state of New Mexico, does not celebrate Columbus Day; the second Monday of October. Although it is a Federal holiday, children attend school. With the exception of essential workers, Kirtland Air Force base is closed; banks, the US Post Office, and other businesses who follow national holidays also close.
My visiting parents, my sleepy toddler and I spent our late morning and early afternoon at The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (2401 12th St. NW Albuquerque, NM 87104). There we were educated about the Albuquerque Indian School (AIS). Afterwards in the museum courtyard, we met and did business with a Native artist from Jemez Pueblo. She was selling small hand-formed and hand-painted clay ornaments.
The educational exhibit is a retrospective of the Federally formed AIS, which operated from 1881-1982. The inter-tribal student body came from pueblos across the Indigenous First Nations within the United States of America; a settler colonial nation-state [you knew that, right?].
Indian children were forced into a boarding school system to provide them with basic education, teach vocations and trades, and offer arts education. The objective was to help the students become contributing members of mainstream American society while killing their Indian within. Yes, you read that correctly.
The examination of life at the boarding school was a sobering but sensitive presentation. There were collages of photographic images, displays of artifacts, and personal accounts from former students of AIS. A “Ken Burns” style [photo-panning] documentary provided first hand oral accounts and recollections from AIS students. Other than that, there were some large objects on display including examples of school project work, training equipment, western musical instruments and sheet music.
Photographs were permitted without use of flash; videos were forbidden: