SAN MARCOS, Texas — Hays County Commissioners proclaimed the holiday formerly known as Columbus Day will now be celebrated as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Last year, the city of San Marcos declared its first Indigenous Peoples' Day, this year, the county is following in the City’s footsteps, removing Columbus Day from its calendar.

The proclamation states within Hays County lies one of the oldest continually inhabited sites in North America, which served as a home to many different tribes of indigenous peoples for at least 13,000 years.

That site, the San Marcos Springs, is where Native Americans, like Joca Marquez, believe their ancestors were born.

"So it was once believed the Springs rose up in the air, 10, 20 feet, and this is where our ancestors came from. So this is really the birthplace of our people, that's what we believe, that they came from the Springs. And that's why this whole area is really sacred to us," Marquez said. "People have learned to appreciate it, to value it. People have learned, people of all races, of all genders, people of all backgrounds come here and appreciate the river. They appreciate the Springs and to them it's become as sacred as it is to us.​"

Marquez, who serves on San Marcos City Council, said the County's recognition of indigenous peoples is a step in the right direction.

"We've always been here but our voices have been silenced. We've been made to be invisible. We've been made to erase our history and our identity," Marquez said. "So it's a huge step. I'm very proud of San Marcos. I'm very proud of Hays County."

As a councilwoman, Marquez said she's honored to be a voice for indigenous people, and to make decisions that are in line with their values.

"A lot of Latinos are indigenous," Marquez said "I feel it's my duty to always stand up for marginalized voices. I feel that my ancestors never had anybody to really stand up for them when they lost their lands, when they lost their people, when they lost their identity. So that's what I try to do. Every decision that I make, every decision that I make on council, the way I conduct myself is always to be responsive to not only the Latino people but the people that don't have a voice."

The county proclamation encourages residents, businesses, organizations and schools to join in recognizing the county’s history.

"There's a lot of trauma associated with the way colonization happened, there's a lot of trauma associated with our people that gets passed down from generation to generation,” Marquez said. “There's trauma that gets passed down because of a loss of land, because of the loss of our identity, because of the loss of our traditions, the loss of our language, the loss of our custom. So now really, we don't know our language. We don't know some of our traditions. There's a lot that has been lost because of it, because of colonization."

Marquez hopes with more progressive steps like this, she will one day see children, like her daughter, learning about their culture in school, instead of focusing on Columbus.

"A lot of us do have indigenous DNA, indigenous to North America, and a lot of people don't know that because we don't get taught in schools. Our curriculum is very whitewashed, and our curriculum is intended to devoid us of our identity and our history. You don't find out until you go to college and take an ethics course, you don't find out until you take a course in Mexican American Studies," Marquez said. "And this is really sad because kids, like my daughter, she won't ever be able to know this and I very proactively work to enroll her in classes, to tell her about it, to send her to Indigenous Cultures camp."

Next weekend at the San Marcos Springs will be the 9th annual Sacred Springs Powwow, an event that celebrates Native American culture. Marquez said regardless of what it says on the calendar, she celebrates every day like it's Indigenous Peoples' Day.

"We need to be responsible stewards. We need to take care of our environment and take care of one another. The way my ancestors took care of one another and welcomed everybody. They welcomed everybody from Europe with open arms. They taught them how to farm, they taught them how to survive, they taught them how to live. And we got paid by genocide, we got paid by the removal of our people from the lands. So we have to be responsive, we have to take care of one another," Marquez said.