What is Indigenous Peoples Day?

The second Monday in October has been celebrated as Columbus Day since 1934, but times are changing

What is Indigenous Peoples Day?

To first answer the question, it is a day that has been celebrated as a welcome alternative to Indigenous communities and allies who do not wish to celebrate Columbus Day.

Indigenous women at the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia Pow wow (Vincent Schilling)
Indigenous women at the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia Pow wow (Vincent Schilling)

For generations, Columbus Day has been celebrated as a day to recognize an explorer who discovered America. But as history has continued to unfold and revealed the real history of a man who committed genocide against Indigenous people, an alternative has been embraced.

Video: The Real History of Christopher Columbus, by Vincent Schilling

Where did Indigenous Peoples Day begin?

In 1977, at a United Nations conference in Geneva, a group of Indigenous delegates proclaimed they would observe October 12 as an “International Day of Solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.” 

In the late 1980s, South Dakota Governor George Mickelson sought reconciliation between the Native and non-Native peoples within his state. Mickleson asked the state legislature to declare 1990 a “year of reconciliation” and asked to rename Columbus Day as Native American Day. The measure passed unanimously, and the day was reborn under a new name.

Just two years later, the city of Berkeley, California, embraced Indigenous Peoples Day in 1992 as a way to protest the celebration of the 500 anniversary of Columbus’ arrival to Hispaniola in 1492.

The embrace of Indigenous Peoples Day as an alternative to Columbus Day continued, and today more than 130 cities nationwide celebrate the day.

Grand Entry in Arlington Virginia (Photo: Vincent Schilling)
Grand Entry in Arlington, Virginia (Photo: Vincent Schilling)

In 2021, President Joe Biden issued a White House proclamation honoring Indigenous Peoples Day, the first president to do so.

To all my family and friends, blessings and good wishes to you all on this Indigenous Peoples Day.

Check out this related story:

Indigenous People’s Day or Columbus Day? Why this Indigenous journalist will never celebrate Columbus Day