Indigenous Peoples’ Day shines a spotlight on the resilience, heritage, and profound contributions of Native Americans.
Celebrated on the second Monday of October, this observance stands as a powerful acknowledgment that Indigenous Peoples have endured and persevered in the face of immense challenges. Contemporary Native Americans have led countless movements advocating for their rights and the preservation of their cultures. Their history is one of cultural resilience, creative adaptation, renewal, and unwavering determination.
American Indian history is marked by cultural persistence and resilience. Native Peoples, along with students and allies, have played a pivotal role in advocating for the official recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in several states, including:
Columbus Day Myths
The familiar childhood rhyme, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” is often considered the beginning of American history. According to the National Museum of the American Indian, it is crucial to dispel this simplistic narrative. Columbus was not the first foreign explorer to reach the Americas, and his arrival in 1492 was far from a “discovery.” Indigenous Peoples had inhabited the Western Hemisphere for millennia before Columbus’s arrival.
European contact resulted in profound loss of life, disruption of cultural traditions, and the staggering loss of ancestral lands. In the 130 years following first contact, Native America endured a devastating 95 percent population decline, according to a study in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.
The arrival of European explorers went beyond contact and exploration; it led to enslavement and theft of vital resources by settlers. Colonies established by the Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, and English expanded across the Americas, National Geographic reports, encroaching further into Indigenous lives and territories, resulting in warfare, enslavement, and forced relocations that disrupted and altered the lives of Indigenous Peoples across the continent.
The transition from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not just a change of name but a shift in perspective, recognizing the profound impact of Indigenous Peoples on the nation’s history and culture. This shift has gained considerable momentum, with more than 130 cities adopting Indigenous Peoples’ Day to replace Columbus Day, CNN reports.
The movement to replace Columbus Day is not limited to the local level. It has extended to the national stage, where Indigenous activists and advocates continue to push for federal recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. While it has not yet achieved the status of a federal holiday, two bills—one in the House and one in the Senate—are currently under consideration to make it one.
The Significance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Indigenous Peoples’ Day serves as a tribute to the Indigenous communities that have resided in the Americas for thousands of years. President Biden, in one proclamation for the holiday, emphasized that the day is intended to “honor the sovereignty, resilience, and immense contributions that Native Americans have made to the world.” However, he also acknowledged that more must be done to support Tribal communities and ensure that their rights and opportunities are protected.
Before President Biden’s proclamation in 2021, many U.S. cities and states had already embraced Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Colleges and companies have also increasingly recognized it. South Dakota, with a significant Native American population, is credited as the first state to officially recognize the day as Native American Day in 1990. Several states and cities have similarly established the day as a holiday, while others recognize it through proclamations.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day is part of a broader global movement to acknowledge and rectify the historical injustices faced by Indigenous communities. Canada, for instance, has been recognizing National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 since 1996. The country also marked the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30 in 2021, apologizing for its role in suppressing and assimilating Indigenous communities.
In recent years, statues of Columbus have been removed in cities worldwide, including Mexico City, the New York Times reports. These actions symbolize a growing acknowledgment of the need to reevaluate the historical figures we celebrate and the impact of colonialism on Indigenous Peoples.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day is more than just a change on the calendar; it represents a profound shift in perspective and understanding. It recognizes the enduring strength and contributions of Indigenous Peoples while confronting the painful history of colonialism.
As this observance gains momentum, it serves as a call to action to address ongoing challenges and injustices faced by Indigenous communities. Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrates the resilience and diversity of Indigenous Peoples, acknowledging their vital role in shaping the nation and the world. It is a day to honor their sovereignty, contributions, and the enduring heritage that continues to enrich our society.
Commit to honor and respect indigenous peoples on this day and every day by signing our petition in support of legislation that will make Indigenous Peoples Day a federally recognized holiday. Click below to make a difference!