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Appreciating and paying respect to the unique heritage and culture of those whose origins are native to the Americas, Indigenous Peoples’ Day offers the opportunity to honor, learn, celebrate and raise awareness.

History of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Honoring Native American people throughout the United States, Indigenous Peoples’ Day was first officially celebrated in the US in 2021, when US President Joe Biden became the first president to formally recognize the day. However, the idea for the day goes back much further.

In 1977, the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland sponsored the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas. Part of the purpose was to begin celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, particularly with the idea of replacing the adoration and glorification of Christopher Columbus with recognition and acknowledgement of the native peoples of the land.

Columbus Day, which is an American holiday, falls on the second Monday of October in the United States, has been less revered in recent years. This is likely due to the fact that the indigenous peoples of the time had their lands and lives taken away from them by the settlers from Europe, and the American people are becoming more aware of the way history has been written only from the perspective of the white person.

In exchange for Columbus Day, many people in the United States have begun the celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day instead. Coinciding with the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus on American soil, a celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day was organized on October 12, 1992 in Berkeley, California. Many other cities and towns have accepted and implemented something similar in their communities, including places such as Los Angeles, California and Washington, DC.

At least twelve of the United States do not celebrate Columbus Day, and the state of South Dakota celebrates Native American Day instead. Tribal governments in Oklahoma have also made declarations regarding the celebration of Native American Day.

How to Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day

A wide spectrum of ways for Americans to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day can be discovered and created. Consider implementing some of these ideas in honor of the day, or come up with some of your own clever ideas:

Attend an Indigenous Peoples’ Day Event

Those who have a family history as a Native American or other indigenous people should certainly take this time to celebrate their heritage! And those who don’t can definitely take the opportunity to support and enjoy learning more.

For people who live in certain places where the populations of indigenous peoples groups are strong, like Arizona, California, Oklahoma, South Dakota and many other states, it is likely that some exciting events, educational programs and celebrations will be on the calendar! Join in on a parade, learn a native craft, or listen to a lecture on history.

Even better, brush up on current events of the indigenous peoples in the local area to see what ways it is possible to learn more about their plight, make a donation or even act as an advocate to raise awareness in the community.

Re-Learn United States History

With the recognition that history over the first 200 years of the United States was written from the perspective of the white person, perhaps National Indigenous Peoples’ Day would be a time, especially for white Americans, to consider a different perspective. Get beyond what was taught in school and get educated on how the story actually happened before the territory of what is now the United States was settled.

Read some books, watch some documentaries and do some research on websites to find out more. Consider some of these books for getting more educated:

  • An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Book Got Wrong by James W. Loewen
  • The People: A History of Native America by R. David Edmunds
  • A True History of the United States: Indigenous Genocide, Radicalized Slavery, Hyper-Capitalism, Militarist Imperialism and Other Overlooked Aspects of American Exceptionalism by Daniel Sjursen

Support an Indigenous People Artist or Community

Often revered for their creativity and attention to detail, many indigenous people tribes produce artwork and handicrafts that are valuable and beautiful. Consider making a trip to a place that supports the arts of native peoples and make a purchase of pottery, blankets, jewelry, painting or some other amazing piece of art to add to your collection.

Visit an Indigenous Peoples’ Museum

Take the hands-on approach to learning more about the people who first inhabited the Americas by visiting a museum or exhibit dedicated to their culture and people. Try out one of these or visit one more local to the area:

  • Museum of Indigenous People (formerly the Smoki Museum). Located in Prescott, Arizona, this museum works to instill understanding and respect for the people of indigenous cultures, particularly those in the southwestern parts of the United States. The museum holds events, offers membership and even hosts a consignment market.
  • National Museum of the American Indian. This Smithsonian museum boasts two locations, one in the Washington DC mall and one in New York City. They offer access to various collections and exhibits as well as educational programs, online resources, and presentations with the intent to pay respect and honor to the native and indigenous peoples of the Americas.
  • Heard Museum. Situated in a vitally important place for Native Americans, this Phoenix, Arizona location focuses on the tribes and people of the Southwest. Exhibitions include handicrafts such as weaving and textiles as well as jewelry, clothing and more. Ages range from prehistoric to contemporary and everything in between. The Heard Museum is also the place where the World Hoop Dance Championship takes place each year!
  • The Eiteljorg Museum. Located in the center of Indianapolis, Indiana, this museum showcases paintings, sculptures, weaving, pottery, artifacts and even evidence of storytelling. With festivals, educational programs, events and even an annual Indian market, this museum is a fun one to visit and learn.

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