Indigenous People’s Day is a holiday that seeks to celebrate and pay tribute to the rich heritage and cultures of Indigenous American peoples while addressing the historical complexities associated with Columbus Day. But there’s more to this special day, let’s find out together.
Origin of National Indigenous Peoples Day?
Indigenous People’s Day is celebrated in the United States on the second Monday in October. This holiday honors and commemorates the histories and cultures of indigenous American peoples. It was established as a counter-celebration to coincide with Columbus Day, which honors Italian explorer Christopher Columbus and his arrival in the Americas in 1492. Some people reject celebrating Columbus due to his association with the violent history of colonization in the Western Hemisphere.
The origins of Indigenous People’s Day can be traced back to Berkeley, California, in 1992, which marked the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival. The city renamed Columbus Day as “Indigenous Peoples Day” to protest the historical consequences of European colonization on Native American peoples and cultures, including diseases, warfare, massacres, and forced assimilation.
Since then, many cities and states across the United States have adopted Indigenous People’s Day, either renaming or canceling Columbus Day celebrations. Some states, like South Dakota, officially celebrate Native American Day instead of Columbus Day. The day serves as an opportunity to recognize and honor the contributions, history, and resilience of indigenous peoples in the Americas.
Moreover, Indigenous People’s Day has also inspired similar celebrations in other parts of the world, such as Brazil’s “National Indigenous Peoples Day” and Taiwan’s “Indigenous Peoples Day.” These observances highlight the importance of acknowledging and respecting the heritage and cultures of indigenous populations worldwide.
How do Indigenous groups feel about the day?
Indigenous Peoples’ Day has been the focus of activism in various cities, such as Denver and Seattle, where protests against Columbus Day have pushed for its replacement with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Informal celebrations of Indigenous cultures, like those on, have also taken place.
The Navajo Nation, the largest U.S. tribe with about 400,000 members, has consistently supported renaming the day. President Jonathan Nez emphasized that this change fosters pride among young Navajos in their heritage and cultural significance. However, some believe mere observance is insufficient, as no U.S. president has formally apologized for the country’s historical treatment of Indigenous peoples.
What is the message of National Indigenous Peoples Day?
On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the United States honors the resilience, contributions, and culture of Indigenous peoples while acknowledging the historical complexities associated with Columbus Day.
Indigenous peoples are celebrated for their strength, contributions, and commitment to preserving their heritage. They continue to pass down their histories, steward the land, serve in the military at high rates, and make significant contributions across various fields. The United States government has taken steps to improve its relationship with Tribal Nations, appointing Native Americans to key positions, enhancing coordination, and making historic investments in Indian Country.
In addition to these efforts, President Biden has used his authority to protect sacred Tribal lands, restore national monuments, and sign co-stewardship agreements with Tribes. Indigenous Peoples’ Day serves as a reminder to renew the spirit of friendship, stewardship, and respect in Nation-to-Nation relationships.
On this day, Americans are encouraged to observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day with appropriate ceremonies and activities. The U.S. flag is to be displayed on public buildings to honor the diverse history and the Indigenous peoples who have shaped the nation. This proclamation reflects a commitment to acknowledging the historical injustices faced by Indigenous peoples and fostering a spirit of unity and respect.