Indigenous Peoples' Day

Indigenous Peoples' Day[1] is a federal holiday in the United States that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures. On October 8, 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden became the first U.S. President to formally recognize the holiday,[2] by signing a presidential proclamation declaring October 11, 2021 to be a national holiday.[3] 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 reject celebrating him, saying that he represents "the violent history of the colonization in the Western Hemisphere".[4] Indigenous People’s Day was instituted in Berkeley, California, in 1992, to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Columbus in the Americas on October 12, 1492. Two years later, Santa Cruz, California, instituted the holiday.[5] Starting in 2014, many other cities and states adopted the holiday.[6]

Indigenous Peoples' Day
Day 286- Indigenous Peoples Day (8084917906).jpg
Indigenous Peoples' Day Celebration
Also calledFirst People's Day, National Indigenous Peoples Day, Columbus Day, or Native American Day
Observed byVarious states and municipalities in the Americas on October 11th, in lieu of Columbus Day
SignificanceA day in honor of Native Indigenous Americans in opposition to the celebration of Columbus Day.
First timeOctober 11, 1992
Related toNational Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada and Indigenous Peoples' Day in Taiwan


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 Americas with a celebration to be known as Indigenous Peoples' Day.[7][8] Similarly, Native American groups staged a sort of protest in Boston instead of Thanksgiving, which has been celebrated there to mark collaboration between Massachusetts 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 people 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".[9]

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[citation needed]. 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.[10] It promoted the idea that Columbus's "discovery" of inhabited lands and the subsequent European colonization of them had resulted in the genocide of thousands of indigenous peoples because of the decisions which were made by colonial and national governments.[11][12]

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 as 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.[13][14] Get Lost (Again) Columbus, an opera by a Native American composer, White Cloud Wolfhawk, was produced that day.[15] Berkeley has celebrated Indigenous Peoples' Day ever since.[16] Beginning in 1993, Berkeley has also held an annual pow wow and festival on Indigenous Peoples' Day.[10]

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.[17] 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.[17]

At least twelve states do not celebrate Columbus Day (Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin), as well as Washington, DC; South Dakota officially celebrates Native American Day instead.[5][18][19] Various tribal governments in Oklahoma designate the day as "Native American Day", or have renamed the day after their own tribes.[20] In 2013, the California state legislature considered a bill, AB55, to formally replace Columbus Day with Native American Day but did not pass it.[21] While the California governor has recognized Indigenous Peoples' Day, the holiday was eliminated by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 2008-12 California budget crisis.[22] On August 30, 2017, following similar affirmative votes in Oberlin, Ohio,[23] followed later by Bangor, Maine, in the earlier weeks of the same month,[24] the Los Angeles City Council voted in favor of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day.[25] 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.[26] This bill was led by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) and must undergo congressional approval to become permanent.[26]

Other celebrationsEdit

Numerous efforts in North America have honored Native American people as part of Columbus Day, or by designating two holidays for the same date.[13] Especially since Native American activism has increased since the 1960s and 1970s, a variety of protests have been staged against celebrating Columbus Day.[27] These have included mock trials of Christopher Columbus in St. Paul, Minnesota,[28] and protests and disruptions of Columbus Day parades in the United States.[29]

Indigenous peoples in other nations have also lobbied to have holidays established to recognize their contributions and history. In South America, for instance, Brazil celebrates "National Indigenous Peoples' Day" on April 19.[30]

In Asia, Taiwan designated August 1 as Indigenous Peoples' Day in 2016 under the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen, who announced that the government is committed to promoting the rights of Taiwan's indigenous peoples and enhancing public awareness of their culture and history.[31] In the Philippines, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, as well as various local indigenous towns, designated October 29, 1987, as Indigenous Peoples' Day.[32]

Native American DayEdit

Some states celebrate a separate but similar Native American Day; however, this is observed not on Columbus Day but in September. Those who observe include the states of California and Tennessee. However, as of 2021, the State of California does not actually observe this holiday by closing its government offices, giving its employees paid time off, or encouraging private businesses to do the same in observance.[33] In Washington state it is celebrated the Friday immediately following the fourth Thursday in November.

International Day of the World's Indigenous PeopleEdit

In 2003, the United Nations declared an International Day of the World's Indigenous People, establishing it on August 9.[34] This international holiday has been celebrated also in various nations.[35][36]

Indigenous Peoples' Day observersEdit

States in the U.S. that celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day or Native American Day instead of Columbus Day

The following locations celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day instead of Columbus Day, with the exceptions of Lewiston, New York,[37] Tompkins County, New York,[38] West Hartford, Connecticut,[39] and Lawton, Oklahoma,[40] which celebrate both. Akron, Ohio celebrates the Indigenous Peoples' Day on the first Monday of October as "North American First People's Day", and Columbus Day has been since renamed as "Italian-American Heritage and Culture Day".[41][42]

Adopted 1989Edit

Adopted 1992Edit

Adopted 1994Edit

Adopted 2014Edit

Adopted 2015Edit

Adopted 2016Edit

Adopted 2017Edit

Adopted 2018Edit

Adopted 2019Edit

Adopted 2020Edit

Adopted 2021Edit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sometimes unpunctuated Indigenous "Peoples" or incorrectly punctuated "People's" Day
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External linksEdit

  Media related to Indigenous Peoples' Day at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ The City of Long Beach does not actually observe the holiday by closing its offices, or giving its employees paid time off; nor does it encourage private businesses to close in observation.
  2. ^ The State of California does not actually observe the holiday by closing its offices, or giving its employees paid time off; nor does it encourage private businesses to close in observation.