Indigenous Peoples' Day is a holiday that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures. It is celebrated across the United States on the second Monday in October, and is an official city and state holiday in various localities. It began as a counter-celebration held on the same day as the U.S. federal holiday of Columbus Day, which honors Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. Many now reject celebrating him, saying that he represents "the violent history of the colonization in the Western Hemisphere". Many activists believe that this holiday is a sanitation or covering-up of Christopher Columbus' actions such as enslaving Native Americans. This Holiday can be seen as a recognition of Indigenous peoples who were oppressed by Christopher Columbus and other colonizers.
Indigenous Peoples' Day began in 1989 in South Dakota, where Lynn Hart and Governor Mickelson backed a resolution to celebrate Native American day on the second Monday of October, marking the beginning of the year of reconciliation in 1990. It was instituted in Berkeley, California, in 1992, to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas. Two years later, Santa Cruz, California, instituted the holiday, and in the 2010s, various other cities and states took it up.
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. Similarly, Native American groups staged a sort of protest in Boston 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 indigenous 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".
After the conference, attendees from Northern California organized protests against the "Quincentennial Jubilee" that had been organized by the United States Congress for the San Francisco Bay Area on Columbus Day in 1992. It was to include replicas of Columbus's 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. It promoted the idea that Columbus's "discovery" of inhabited lands and subsequent European colonization of these areas had resulted in the genocide of indigenous peoples by decisions of colonial and national governments.
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 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 through diseases, warfare, massacres, and forced assimilation. Get Lost (Again) Columbus, an opera by a Native American composer, White Cloud Wolfhawk, was produced that day. Berkeley has celebrated Indigenous Peoples' Day ever since. Beginning in 1993, Berkeley has also held an annual pow wow and festival on Indigenous Peoples' Day.
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. Several other California cities, including Richmond, Santa Cruz, and Sebastopol, now celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day and encourage people to donate to a neighboring tribe and recognize the trauma and pain indigenous peoples have been subjected to by colonizers.
At least three states do not celebrate Columbus Day (Hawaii, Oregon, and South Dakota); South Dakota officially celebrates Native American Day instead. Various tribal governments in Oklahoma designate the day as "Native American Day", or have renamed the day after their own tribes. In 2013, the California state legislature considered a bill, AB55, to formally replace Columbus Day with Native American Day but did not pass it. On August 30, 2017, following similar affirmative votes in Oberlin, Ohio, followed later by Bangor, Maine in the earlier weeks of the same month, the Los Angeles City Council voted in favor of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. On October 10, 2019, just a few days before Columbus Day would be celebrated in Washington, D.C., the D.C. Council voted to temporarily replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day. This bill was lead by Councilmember David Grosso and must undergo congressional approval to become permanent.
Numerous efforts in the Americas have honored Native American people as part of Columbus Day, or by designating two holidays for the same date. Especially since Native American activism has increased since the 1960s and 1970s, a variety of protests have been staged against celebrating Columbus Day. These have included mock trials of Christopher Columbus in St. Paul, Minnesota, and protests and disruptions of Columbus Day parades in the United States.
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. In the Philippines, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, as well as various local indigenous towns, designated October 29, 2008, as Indigenous Peoples' Day.
Much controversy remains in the school system over Columbus's legacy and which holiday should be celebrated. Children in schools have been taught about Christopher Columbus as a hero, but the book Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, presents an argument that children should also be taught about the truth of what Christopher Columbus started and what effect his actions had upon the native people of the Americas.
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. This international holiday has been celebrated also in various nations.
The following locations celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day instead of Columbus Day, with the exceptions of Lewiston, New York, Tompkins County, New York, West Hartford, Connecticut, and Lawton, Oklahoma, which celebrate both.
^"Columbus Day To Native American Day? CA Assemblyman Roger Hernandez Introduces Bill AB 55". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 12, 2015.In December 2015 The Belfast, Maine City Council approved a resolution to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, making it the first city east of the Mississippi to take this historic step. It was first celebrated in October 2016 with a weekend of events planned and produced in full cooperation with our local Wabanaki communities, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and Mi'kmaq.
^"Bangor Renaming Columbus Day as 'Indigenous Peoples Day'". usnews.com. U.S. News and World Report. August 29, 2017. Retrieved August 31, 2017. One of the biggest cities in Maine is renaming the second Monday in October as "Indigenous Peoples Day" instead of Columbus Day...WMTW-TV reports the Bangor City Council approved the change on Monday. Belfast, Maine, became the first city in the state to make the change in 2015...Bangor officials say in public records that the renamed holiday "will provide an opportunity for our community to recognize and celebrate the Indigenous Peoples of our region." They specifically site the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Penobscot Indian Nation and the Passamaquoddy tribe.
^"LA City Council votes to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day". abc7.com. KABC-TV. August 20, 2017. Retrieved August 31, 2017. The Los Angeles City Council voted on Wednesday to replace the Columbus Day holiday with Indigenous Peoples Day...Councilmembers voted 14-1 to make the second Monday in October a day to commemorate indigenous, aboriginal and native people. It will be a paid holiday for city employees.
(federal) = federal holidays, (state) = state holidays, (religious) = religious holidays, (week) = weeklong holidays, (month) = monthlong holidays, (36) = Title 36 Observances and Ceremonies Bold indicates major holidays commonly celebrated in the United States, which often represent the major celebrations of the month.