Government closes for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but bank still not on board

As Santa Fe celebrations are underway, Wells Fargo bank still fails to acknowledge holiday

New Mexico officially changed the name of today's federal holiday Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day this year, and this is the fourth year since the City of Santa Fe made the change at the municipal level.

The city resolution passed in 2016 offers acknowledgement of the impacts of colonization on the Native people of the region:  "The city recognizes that Santa Fe is built on the homelands and villages of the 17 indigenous peoples of this region … Indigenous Peoples Day shall reflect on the ongoing struggles of indigenous people of this land and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that indigenous people add to our city. "

This year's festivities included dances Saturday at the Plaza by groups from Santa Clara Pueblo, Zuni Pueblo, and Ohkay Owingeh. Celebration continues today with opening remarks that begin at 10 am. The Santa Fe Community College also plans to host an Indigenous Peoples' Day reading in the SFCC Library today at 4 pm. The event is co-organized by the SFCC Indigenous Peoples' Club and the SFCC SOW (Spirit of Writing) Art & Justice Collective.

Emily Stern, a full-time faculty member in the college's English Department and the faculty advisor to SOW, tells SFR that the event will include readings by students and faculty from both SFCC and the Institute of American Indian Art.

Stern tells SFR that holding space for the voices of community members is an important part of the purpose of the event.

"I want to participate in holding up communities and not reinforcing a lie like Columbus Day," Stern says, stating clearly that she herself is not Indigenous. "I feel very moved to participate in telling the truth and in that, I feel like I am being both an ally and an advocate for my students' well-being and ability to learn, because we all deserve to be intact and not historicized in ways that are inaccurate."

In Albuquerque, social justice group The Red Nation has declared the theme of their Indigenous Peoples' Day celebration to be "No Deportations, Decolonize This Nation." The group plans to hold a rally and march today in opposition to deportation and incarceration of immigrants from South America, bringing attention to the numbers of indigenous families showing up at the US Mexico border.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has put out calls for interpreters who speak the indigenous languages including K'iche', Mam, Achi, Ixil, Awakatek, Jakaltek Qanjobal, Tzotzil and Quechua.

All government offices in New Mexico are closed in observation of the holiday, but still, not all businesses have caught up yet.

Signs posted at both entrances of a Wells Fargo branch on the corner of Washington Avenue and Paseo de Peralta across from the federal courthouse last week said the bank would be closed for "Columbus Day," raising questions among customers.

The signs have since been removed, but the replacements still don't acknowledge the name change of the holiday.

"This year and next year branch digital and print signage will reference the holiday as a national holiday, no mention of Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples' Day," a Wells Fargo spokeswoman tells SFR by email.

The irony of the Wells Fargo's failure to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples' Day is highlighted in the Washington Avenue branch by a row of Native pots that adorn the ledge above the tellers desks inside the bank; and the oversight is the latest display of disregard for Native Americans by the national banking corporation, despite its pledge of service and respect for Native American Tribes in its "Indigenous Peoples' Statement."

In August, Wells Fargo agreed to pay a $6.5 million settlement to the Navajo Nation after being accused of "predatory and unlawful" practices that targeted Navajo people. The bank allegedly opened accounts and credit lines under Navajo tribal members names without consent and duped elderly non-English speakers into paying for unnecessary fees and services.

The bank was also one of the primary lenders that helped finance the Dakota Access Pipeline, a project that prompted fierce opposition by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allies after it became known that construction of the pipeline would destroy the tribes' ancestral burial grounds and threatened to contaminate their water supply coming from the Missouri River.

Seattle, Washington, and Davis, California, were among cities that pulled investments from Wells Fargo in 2017 in response to the bank's involvement in the Dakota Access Pipeline. At the time Santa Fe also considered divestment from the bank, yet in August 2017 re-signed a contract with the bank to handle city finances when proposals by local banks failed to adequately meet the same standards.

Santa Fe's Director of Tourism, Randy Randall, tells SFR, "Columbus Day is a national holiday, so businesses can use it if they want to, but our hope is that as time goes on more and more people will realize that there is so much more to the holiday—it is a celebration of our Native people."

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