Columbus Day has been celebrated on the second Monday of October from the time it was designated a federal holiday in 1971.

But beginning this year, El Paso County employees will no longer get Columbus Day off. That’s because the county has joined a growing list of municipalities that have voted to no longer observe Columbus Day, choosing instead to recognize the day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It is now one of 16 county employee holiday days-off.

During the Monday, September 21, Commissioner’s Court meeting, county officials approved an amendment to the holiday policy authorizing the change. Commissioner’s David Stoudt and Carl Robinson, and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, who were the only ones present for the virtual show of hands, all voted in favor of officially making the day off ‘Indigenous People’s Day’.

The vote on the name change followed a short discussion and presentation during the Special Session on September 17. The Human Resources Department recommended the name change “in an effort to maintain a diverse and inclusive culture within the County workforce.”

“I believe that we need to get with the times and make this change,” Commissioner Stoudt said shortly after the presentation. “I think it will say a lot for this community in recognizing the importance of our indigenous community and its contributions to our culture and our history.”

County Judge Samaniego agreed. “Our indigenous here is so important, I mean we’re so close to some of the very known indigenous tribes here in El Paso, Las Cruces, and New Mexico so I’m very supportive.”

Indigenous Peoples’ Day will be observed by the county and its employees for the first time on Monday, October 12, and going forward every year. In Texas, Austin and Dallas have made similar moves, as have cities nationwide like Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Santa Fe.

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