What is Indigenous Peoples Day? A day of celebration, protest and reclaiming history

FILE - Hopi children dance in front of City Hall on Indigenous Peoples Day, Oct. 10, 2022, in...
FILE – Hopi youngsters dance in entrance of Metropolis Corridor on Indigenous Peoples Day, Oct. 10, 2022, in Flagstaff, Ariz. Native American individuals will rejoice their centuries-long historical past of resilience on Monday, Oct. 9, 2023, via ceremonies, dances and speeches. The occasions throughout the USA will come two years after President Joe Biden formally commemorated Indigenous Peoples Day. (AP Photograph/Felicia Fonseca, File)(AP)

(AP) – From Alcatraz Island to a park in New York Metropolis, Native American individuals will rejoice their centuries-long historical past of resilience on Monday with ceremonies, dances and speeches.

The occasions throughout the U.S. come two years after President Joe Biden formally commemorated Indigenous Peoples Day. An growing variety of states and cities have additionally acknowledged it — pivoting from a day-long rooted within the celebration of explorer Christopher Columbus to at least one targeted on the individuals whose lives and tradition had been ceaselessly modified by colonialism.

“Today is about reclaiming histories,” mentioned Kyle Mays, an affiliate professor of American Indian Research on the College of California, Los Angeles. “It’s acknowledging the historical past of dispossession and violence towards Indigenous individuals.”

Here’s a have a look at why it’s known as Indigenous Peoples Day, the historical past behind it and the way individuals rejoice.


Indigenous Peoples Day has been acknowledged for many years in several types and underneath a wide range of names to rejoice Native Individuals’ historical past and tradition and to acknowledge the challenges they proceed to face.

In 2021, Biden issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples Day. He mentioned in a press release that the day is supposed to “honor America’s first inhabitants and the Tribal Nations that proceed to thrive as we speak.”

It’s usually noticed on the second Monday in October, the identical day as Columbus Day, a federal vacation established many years in the past to acknowledge Columbus’ sighting in 1492 of what got here to be often known as the Americas.

“Columbus was a misplaced explorer who stumbled into this a part of the world and introduced famine, colonization, the deaths of tens of millions of Indigenous peoples,” mentioned Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of the NDN Collective, an Indigenous-led advocacy group. “For this nation to rejoice that historical past is completely disrespectful.”


Though it isn’t a federal vacation, 17 states — together with Washington, South Dakota and Maine — in addition to Washington, D.C., have holidays honoring Native Individuals, a few of that are on the second Monday in October, in line with the Pew Analysis Heart. Indigenous Peoples Day is usually paired with Columbus Day or replaces the federal vacation altogether. Dozens of cities and college programs observe Indigenous Peoples Day as nicely.

Earlier this yr, Anchorage and Phoenix grew to become two of the most recent municipalities to formally designate Indigenous Peoples Day as a vacation. And on Monday, a number of U.S. lawmakers introduced they’d reintroduced laws meant to switch Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day as a federal vacation.


Its significance for Native Individuals has extra to do with the truth that it’s the day the U.S. has celebrated Columbus, defined Cliff Matias, cultural director for the New York-based Redhawk Indigenous Arts Council.

“We rejoice our survival of Columbus and all that he introduced,” he mentioned.

Matias, whose Indigenous Nations are Taino and Kichwa, mentioned a extra appropriate day to honor Native individuals could be the “summer season solstice, which is a strong day for Indigenous individuals all around the world. It is perhaps some form of day that we acknowledge typically correlating with our connection to the planet.”

Nonetheless, Tilsen mentioned celebrating on at the present time is highly effective.

“Once we rejoice Indigenous Peoples Day rather than Columbus Day, it exhibits a victory for Indigenous individuals,” he mentioned. “It represents how we gained’t be erased, how we nonetheless stand in our energy, it doesn’t matter what they did to attempt to kill us off and steal our land.”


Indigenous Peoples Day is supposed to acknowledge the painful historical past Indigenous individuals have confronted and to rejoice their communities, mentioned Tilsen, who’s Oglala Lakota. However it is usually “a day of protest and resistance,” he mentioned.

The day is usually marked by protests towards memorials to Columbus, for environmental justice, for the return of Indigenous lands and in honor of lacking and murdered Indigenous ladies. Tilsen mentioned he typically participates in protests a day earlier than celebrating with Native meals, performances, artwork, music and conventional ceremonies.

Recognition of the day itself follows organizing by Indigenous peoples for the reason that Nineteen Seventies, mentioned Mays, who’s Black and Saginaw Anishinaabe. Activists say the trouble to switch Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day has been resisted by individuals who view Columbus as a consultant of Italian-American historical past.

Tilsen mentioned the problem “just isn’t an either-or.”

“Italian-Individuals have made so many contributions to America, and that needs to be celebrated,” he mentioned. “However not like this. There may be a lot extra in Italian-American historical past that needs to be celebrated as an alternative.”


As many as 3,000 persons are anticipated to journey to Alcatraz Island early Monday morning to mark its occupation by Native Individuals for 19 months, starting in 1969, in what is usually described because the “authentic land again motion,” mentioned Morning Star Gali, California tribal liaison for the Worldwide Indian Treaty Council, which organized the occasion.

“It truly is a celebration of our resilience and our resistance and it’s an effort of reclaiming the visibility of Native peoples, particularly for California,” mentioned Gali, a member of the Ajumawi band of the Pit River Tribe.

The occasion has taken place for greater than 45 years and can embrace a dawn prayer, conventional dance teams and Indigenous audio system from all around the world.

In New York Metropolis, Native individuals, together with tribal chiefs, will collect all through the lengthy weekend at Randall’s Island Park. The ninth annual gathering, a collaboration of 14 Indigenous organizations and space tribes within the New York Metropolis metropolitan area, will embrace prayers and the honoring of the unique inhabitants of the town, defined Matias, founding father of the occasion.

There will even be occasions throughout Phoenix, together with one organized by the Heard Museum known as “Rising for the Future,” which can rejoice Indigenous tradition with music, movie screenings and fry bread. And in Michigan, an Indigenous Peoples Day occasion at Mid Michigan Faculty is anticipated to characteristic leaders from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and the state’s lieutenant governor, and is supposed to facilitate collaboration between Native individuals and the broader neighborhood.

For individuals eager to rejoice Indigenous Peoples Day, Tilsen mentioned they need to look out for neighborhood occasions and be taught extra concerning the Indigenous communities of their areas.


Related Press author Anita Snow in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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