On the second Monday in October we recognize Indigenous People’s Day – a day that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures.
This year, as American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities across the nation experience a disproportionate impact from COVID-19, it seems particularly relevant to celebrate the holiday and to better understand its origins. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a recognition of the history of AI/AN people on the land that is now America. The holiday is a celebration of the culture and people that thrived here before European colonization, and this time also represents an opportunity to educate ourselves about the history of interactions between Indigenous people and Europeans who came to colonize the land. Today we continue to see the influence and contributions of Indigenous people in our language, literature, government, healthcare and food. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a time to learn from community advocates, to understand the challenges their communities face, and to gain knowledge about our shared history and how that impacts the millions of AI/AN people and tribes today.
With the purpose of reclaiming Columbus Day, the recognition is part pf a continuing conversation around the recognition of indigenous peoples including World Indigenous People Day celebrated in August and Canada’s National Indigenous People’s Day recognized in June. Below are some links to the important discussions about the legacy and impact of colonialism on Native communities, and ideas about how to meaningfully celebrate the cultures, contributions, and resilience of contemporary Native peoples.
And why should we celebrate it instead of Columbus Day?
On Monday in the nation’s capital, there is no Columbus Day. The D.C. Council voted to replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in a temporary move that it hopes to make permanent. Several other places across the United States have also made the switch in a growing movement to end the celebration of the Italian explorer in favor of honoring Indigenous communities and their resiliency in the face of violence by European explorers like Christopher Columbus
Are you a parent, grandparent, or other caregiver wondering what to do for Indigenous Peoples’ Day this year while you and your family are home? Perhaps you’re a college student, discussing social justice and hoping to do something meaningful that also respects public health guidance on in-person gatherings?
The second Monday of October has been identified as Columbus Day since the year 1937; however, since 1977, many individuals have begun to call this day Indigenous Peoples’ Day to celebrate the lives and culture of Native Americans. This shift from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day started due to the controversy of celebrating a historical figure who negatively impacted Native American and Indigenous people and their culture.