Indigenous Peoples' Day

Indigenous Peoples' Day
Observed by Various states and municipalities in the Americas
Type Historical
Significance A day in honor of Native Americans
Date Second Monday in October (observed in the United States)
2015 date October 12  (2015-10-12)
2016 date October 10  (2016-10-10)
2017 date October 9  (2017-10-09)
2018 date October 8  (2018-10-08)
Frequency Annual

Indigenous Peoples' Day[1] (also known as Native American Day) is a holiday that celebrates the indigenous peoples of North America. It is celebrated in various localities in the United States. It began as a counter-celebration to Columbus Day, promoting Native American culture and commemorating the history of Native American peoples. The celebration began in Berkeley, California, through the International Indian Treaty Council, and Denver, Colorado, and now in Vermont, as a protest against Columbus Day. The latter is observed as a federal holiday in the United States, but it is not observed as a state holiday in every state, and most retail enterprises stay open.[2] Indigenous Peoples' Day is usually held on the second Monday of October, coinciding with the federal observance of Columbus Day.[3]


In 1977 the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas, sponsored by the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, began to discuss replacing Columbus Day in the United States with a celebration to be known as Indigenous Peoples Day.[4] Similarly, Native American groups staged actions in Boston, Massachusetts instead of Thanksgiving, which has been celebrated there to mark collaboration between English colonists and Native Americans in the first years. In July 1990, at the First Continental Conference on 500 Years of Indian Resistance in Quito, Ecuador, representatives of Indian groups throughout the Americas agreed that they would mark 1992, the 500th anniversary of the first of the voyages of Christopher Columbus, as a year to promote "continental unity" and "liberation." [5]

After the conference, attendees from Northern California organized to plan protests against the "Quincentennial Jubilee" that had been organized by the United States Congress for the San Francisco Bay Area on Columbus Day 1992. It was to include replicas of Columbus' ships sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge and reenacting their "discovery" of America. The delegates formed the Bay Area Indian Alliance and in turn, the "Resistance 500" task force.[6] It promoted the idea that Columbus' "discovery" of an inhabited lands and subsequent European colonization of these areas had resulted in the genocide of indigenous peoples by decisions of colonial and national governments.[7][8]

In 1992, the group convinced the city council of Berkeley, California, to declare October 12 as a "Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People", and 1992 the "Year of Indigenous People". The city implemented related programs in schools, libraries, and museums. The city symbolically renamed Columbus Day as "Indigenous Peoples' Day" beginning in 1992[9] to protest the historical conquest of North America by Europeans, and to call attention to the losses suffered by the Native American peoples and their cultures[10] through diseases, warfare, massacres, and forced assimilation. Get Lost (Again) Columbus, an opera by a Native American composer, was produced that day.[11] Berkeley has celebrated Indigenous Peoples' Day ever since.[12] Beginning in 1993, Berkeley has also held an annual pow wow and festival on Indigenous Peoples' Day.[6]

In the years following Berkeley's action, other local governments and institutions have either renamed or canceled Columbus Day, either to celebrate Native American history and cultures, to avoid celebrating Columbus and the European colonization of the Americas, or due to raised controversy over the legacy of Columbus.[13] Several other California cities, including Richmond, Santa Cruz, and Sebastopol, now celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day.[13]

At least four states do not celebrate Columbus Day (Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and South Dakota); South Dakota officially celebrates Native American Day instead.[3][14][15] Various tribal governments in Oklahoma designate the day as "Native American Day", or have renamed the day after their own tribes.[16] In 2013, the California state legislature considered a bill, AB55, to formally replace Columbus Day with Native American Day but did not pass it.[17]

Other celebrations

Numerous efforts in the Americas have honored Native Americans as part of Columbus Day, or by designating two holidays for the same date.[10] Especially since Native American activism has increased since the 1960s and 1970s, a variety of protests have been staged against celebrating Columbus Day.[18] These have included mock trials of Christopher Columbus, an insurgent offensive in Peru by the Shining Path guerrillas,[18] and protests and disruptions of Columbus Day parades in the United States.[19]

Indigenous peoples in other nations have also lobbied to have holidays established to recognize their contributions and history. For instance, Brazil celebrates "National Indigenous Peoples' Day" on April 19.[20] In the Philippines, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, as well as various local indigenous towns, designated October 29, 2008, as Indigenous Peoples' Day.[21]

International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

In 1994, the United Nations declared an International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, establishing it on August 9.[22] This international holiday has been celebrated also in various nations. [23][24]

See also


  1. Sometimes punctuated Indigenous "People's" or "Peoples" Day
  2. "The future of Columbus Day: Can a national holiday survive when detractors say it's nothing to celebrate?". The Week.
  3. 1 2 Thomas J. Morgan (April 9, 2009). "Brown casts off Columbus, agreeing to forgo celebrating his day". Rhode Island Journal.
  4. R.S. Sriyananda (August 7, 2009). "Celebrating peoples of Yore". Daily News (Sri Lanka).
  5. "Declaration of Quito, Ecuador". Indigenous Alliance of the Americas on 500 Years of Resistance. July 1990.
  6. 1 2 Katlyn Carter (January 10, 2005). "Berkeley Celebrates Indigenous Peoples' Day". Daily Californian.
  7. "`Indigenous People's Day' to Replace Columbus Celebration". Los Angeles Times. January 11, 1992.
  8. Michael S. Arnold (October 12, 1992). "Protesters Stop Mock Landing of Columbus". Los Angeles Times.
  9. "Berkeley Postpones Fate of Columbus Day". San Jose Mercury News. July 17, 1992.
  10. 1 2 Roger Petterson (October 13, 1992). "Columbus Day Stirs Debate Across America". Associated Press.
  11. James Barron (October 12, 1992). "He's the Explorer/Exploiter You Just Have to Love/Hate". New York Times.
  12. Richard C. Paddock (January 13, 2008). "UC Berkeley's bones of contention". Los Angeles Times.
  13. 1 2 Conor Dougherty and Sudeep Reddy (October 10, 2009). "Is Columbus Day Sailing Off the Calendar". Wall Street Journal.
  14. "South Dakota Codified Laws".
  15. "Chapter 187 — Holidays; Standard of Time; Commemorations". State of Oregon. Oregon Legislative Website. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
  16. Clifton Adcock (October 13, 2008). "Holiday not celebrated by tribes: American Indians see Columbus Day as a reminder of harsh treatment ages ago". Tulsa World.
  17. "Columbus Day To Native American Day? CA Assemblyman Roger Hernandez Introduces Bill AB 55". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  18. 1 2 Sam Stanton (October 9, 1992). "Columbus Feted Despite His Fall from Grace". McClatchey News Service.
  19. Keith Coffman, "Columbus Day protest in Denver leads to arrests", Reuters, October 6, 2007.
  20. Mario Osava (April 16, 2009). "Dispossessed Demand Land, Health, Justice". Inter Press Service.
  21. Nony Basco (November 1, 2008). "Panay-Bukidnon celebrates Indigenous Peoples' Day". ABS-CBN News.
  22. Dag Hammarskjöld Library: International Day of the World’s Indigenous People Archived November 6, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  23. "Low Health Standards Highlighted On Indigenous Peoples' Day". News Room America. August 9, 2009.
  24. "World Indigenous Day celebrated in Khagrachhari". The Daily Star. August 9, 2009.
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