History of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Many Americans still believe that Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and discovered the Americas. That is false. PERIOD.

In 2021, Biden proclaimed Oct. 11 would be observed as a day to honor Native Americans. It marked the first year a U.S. president had officially recognized IPD.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day creates a day for Americans to move away from the whitewashed history many of us grew up learning and spend time recognizing, learning and celebrating the history, legacy, experiences of Native Americans.

How was Indigenous Peoples’ Day started?

Indigenous leaders organized in 1977 at a United Nations conference, and recommended that October 12 should be observed as an International Day of Solidarity for Indigenous People.

It wasn’t until 1989 that it became a reality - Indigenous Peoples of Colorado and South Dakota, states with large Native populations, demanded the replacement of Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Over the years even more states have begun to observe and honor the holiday. As of 2022 more than 17 states and 130 local governments have chosen to not celebrate Columbus Day altogether or replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Here’s a list of those states:

Alaska, Minnesota, Vermont, Iowa, North Carolina, California, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Virginia, Oregon, Texas, as well as South Dakota, which celebrates Native Americans’ Day, Hawaii, which celebrates Discoverers’ Day, and Alabama, which celebrates American Indian Heritage Day.

“What these changes accomplish, piece by piece, is visibility for Native people in the United States. Until Native people are or are fully seen in our society and in everyday life, we can’t accomplish those bigger changes. As long as Native people remain invisible, it’s much more easier for people to look past those real issues and those real concerns within those communities,” Mandy Van Heuvelen, the cultural interpreter coordinator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, told NPR.

A Reckon note

Stop sanitizing Columbus’ actions.

When we honor holidays, statues and other memorials of Christopher Columbus it’s like we erase and ignore the brutality and enslavement of Native Peoples that Europeans are responsible for

That then creates a distorted history that credits him for “discovering” a place where people already lived. Although Columbus Day remains a ‘holiday’ on a federal level, it’s about time we left that name in the dust.

“Columbus Day is not just a holiday, it represents the violent history of colonization in the Western hemisphere.” - said Leo Killsback, a professor of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University.

Who to know / follow

Oglala Lakota - @LakotaMan1 / IG @lakota_man

Charlie Amáyá Scott - @GrandmaSaidNo / IG @dineaesthetics

Txai Suruí - @txaisurui (Twitter) / IG @juventudeindig1

Sarain Fox - @sarainfox (Twitter) / IG @sarainfox

Autumn Peltier - @autumn.peltier

James Jones - @notoriouscree (IG)

Find out whose land you live on and honor it

Head to Native Land Digital, a nonprofit and resource offering people a way to learn more about Indigenous territories, languages, lands and ways of life.

Enter your zip code and find out what Indigenous land you reside on, then honor it by learning more about the people whose land that is. The site offers a good starting point by linking to the websites and related maps for most local nations.

*This map does not represent or intend to represent official or legal boundaries of any Indigenous nations.

Alexis Wray

Alexis Wray |

I report on HBCUs and Blackness, working to introduce voices and perspectives of students, alumni and community members that amplify the experiences of Black life on and off campus.

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