Indigenous Peoples’ Day lands on October 9 this year, and given that you’ve wandered over to this page today, you’re either a) curious to learn more about how this holiday came to be; b) eager to find out ways that you can honor and celebrate this special day; c) looking for relevant organizations to discover and support. Orrrr… d) all of the above.
In absolutely stellar news for the option D crowd, we’re here to provide you with the full scoop on the significance of this day, and give a bit of background about how and why it’s being observed instead of C*lumbus D*y in some states. So, let’s get into it.
How Indigenous Peoples’ Day Came to Be
In 2021, President Joe Biden became the first U.S. president to commemorate the holiday, but many Indigenous people have been honoring it long before his official proclamation. Way back in the 1970s, Indigenous rights activists were flagging the problematic implications of recognizing Columbus Day as a national holiday—ya know, due to the fact that he didn’t actually “discover” the U.S.A.’s land and how he enslaved the Indigenous folks that were here first.
In 1977, leaders at the International NGO Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas suggested that the second Monday in October be observed as “International Day of Solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas,” instead of Columbus Day. By 1990, South Dakota was the first state to officially recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
What states officially recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day?
- North Carolina
- District of Columbia
- New Mexico
Like any other federal holiday, you can expect post offices, most banks, and many workplaces and schools to be closed in observance. (But you’ll want to check with your individual office/school calendars to confirm, just to be on the safe side.)
It’s definitely whack that not all states are on board with observing the day—it definitely should be a standard across the country, but I’ll get off my soapbox for now. If your state isn’t on the above list and you want that to change, write letters to your local officials and governor, to start. No action can be too small.
How You Can Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day
There are tons of ways you can show this day some love, both on October 9 and beyond. But one of the easiest and most impactful actions you can take is to correct inaccurate and harmful narratives that float around about Indigenous life. “One of the first misconceptions people have is that Indigenous people are simply anti-American, and that’s just too simplified,” says Sarah Manning, director of communications at the NDN Collective.
“Oftentimes our perspective, our lived experience, and our narratives are really vilified,” she explains. “They scratch at the discomfort of settlers. On the dark underside of American exceptionalism is the story of genocide and slavery. And any time we name those realities, we experience a pushback.”
Instead of resisting the truth about our country’s history with Indigenous communities, this holiday is a good time for aspiring allies to grapple with the uncomfortable circumstances of their privilege…and correct it in any little way they can. It’s like, ridiculously simple to do.
“Reflect on the ways you might be unintentionally supporting false narratives,” says Manning. “Look at what’s on your bookshelves. Look at the narratives you consume in television and entertainment.”
If you think these acts are too insignificant to contribute to a larger cultural shift, think again, please and thank you! There’s definitely an active ripple effect. “[Indidgenous people] suffer high rates of poor mental health, substance abuse, and poverty,” says Manning. “The wealth gap is massive between the dominant society and indigenous people, graduation rates are lower, and it has everything to do with the fact that our people have been oppressed in our own lands and were not reflected in mainstream narratives.”
A few Indigenous-led Organizations and Movements You Can Support
JIC you want to take things one step further after staying cognizant about all the long-standing stereotypes out there, we’ve rounded up a handy list of groups for you to check out, support, and pass along.
The LANDBACK Campaign
A movement for helping Indigenous communities gain economic and political sovereignty in ancestral lands.
Indigenous Peoples Resources
A site that distributes films, books, and maps made by and about Indigenous folks.
Community Outreach & Patient Empowerment
An org in partnership with the Navajo Nation that is dedicated to eliminating the health disparities for Indigenous people.
Indigenous Media Freedom Alliance
A nonprofit media organization that’s building a system to fill the news gap of information in Indigenous communities.
Native Youth Sexual Health Network
A grassroots network of Indigenous youth providing resources for reproductive health, rights, and justice.
An org that provides resources for sobriety, recovery, and addiction prevention to communities nationwide.
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