Indigenous Peoples Day 2023: History and How to Observe

Native American peoples are honored and celebrated on Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the United States, which also respects and remembers their histories and cultures. By signing a presidential proclamation designating October 11 as a national holiday on October 8, US President Joe Biden became the first US President to publicly recognize the event.

On the second Monday in October, it is observed nationwide and in certain areas is a recognized city or state holiday. It started as a celebration staged in opposition to Columbus Day, a federal holiday in the United States that honors the explorer who was born in Genoa. He represents “the terrible history of the colonization in the Western Hemisphere,” according to some, who resist honoring him.

Hemisphere”. In 1992, Berkeley, California, established Indigenous People’s Day to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ landing in the Americas on October 12, 1492. Santa Cruz, California, implemented the holiday two years later. Many other cities and states adopted the holiday beginning in 2014.

When is Indigenous Peoples Day?

Monday, October 10 Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the United States

What is Indigenous Peoples Day?

Native American peoples are honored and celebrated on Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the United States, which also respects and remembers their histories and cultures.

History of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The idea of replacing Columbus Day in the Americas with an occasion known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day first surfaced in 1977 during the United Nations-sponsored International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas in Geneva, Switzerland.

Similar to this, Native American organizations boycotted Thanksgiving in Boston, which has been observed there to commemorate early Native American and Massachusetts colonist cooperation.

Representatives of indigenous people from across the Americas came to an agreement in July 1990 at the First Continental Conference on 500 Years of Indian Resistance in Quito, Ecuador, to use the year 1992, the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s first voyage, to advance “continental unity” and “liberation.”

Participants from Northern California coordinated protests against the “Quincentennial Jubilee” that the US Congress had planned for the San Francisco Bay Area on October 12, 1992, after the conference[citation needed].

Replicas of Columbus’ ships were to cruise beneath the Golden Gate Bridge as they acted out their “discovery” of America. The delegates established the “Resistance 500” task team and the Bay Area Indian Alliance.

It advocated the belief that because of the choices made by colonial and national governments, Columbus’ “discovery” of inhabited territories and the subsequent colonization of them by Europeans led to the genocide of thousands of indigenous peoples.

The group succeeded in persuading Berkeley, California’s city council to name 1992 the “Year of Indigenous People” and October 12 as a “Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People” 1992. In addition, the city launched initiatives in museums, libraries, and schools.

To protest the historical conquest of North America by Europeans and to draw attention to the losses suffered by the Native American peoples and their cultures due to diseases, war, massacres, and forced assimilation, the city symbolically renamed Columbus Day “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” beginning in 1992.

On that day, White Cloud Wolfhawk, a Native American composer, debuted his opera Get Lost (Again) Columbus. Since then, Indigenous Peoples’ Day has been observed in Berkeley. Berkeley has also hosted an annual pow-wow and festival since 1993.

Other local governments and institutions have either changed the name of Columbus Day or abolished it in the years since Berkeley’s initiative, either to honor Native American history and cultures, to avoid commemorating Columbus and the European colonization of the Americas or because there has been increased debate regarding Columbus’ legacy.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is currently observed in a number of other Californian cities, such as Richmond, Santa Cruz, and Sebastopol. These cities also encourage citizens to give to a nearby tribe and acknowledge the suffering and trauma that invaders have caused indigenous people.

Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin are among the twelve states and Washington, DC that do not observe Columbus Day; South Dakota instead observes Native American Day.

In Oklahoma, several tribal governments have renamed the day “Native American Day” to honor their respective tribes. A bill, AB55, to formally replace Columbus Day with Native American Day was debated by the California State Assembly in 2013, however, it was not passed.

Despite the fact that the holiday was abolished by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger during the 2008–12 California budget crisis, the governor of California has honored Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Councilman David Grosso (I-At Large) was the primary sponsor of this bill, which needs congressional approval to become law.

On August 30, 2017, the Los Angeles City Council voted in favor of switching Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, following similar affirmative votes in Oberlin, Ohio, and Bangor, Maine, in the earlier weeks of the same month.

The D.C. Council voted on October 10, 2019, only a few days before Columbus Day was scheduled to be observed in Washington, D.C., to temporarily swap out Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Councilman David Grosso (I-At Large) was the primary sponsor of this bill, which needs congressional approval to become law.

How to Observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Numerous initiatives in North America have recognized Native Americans as a separate holiday or as part of Columbus Day. There have been many protests against Columbus Day, particularly in light of the rise in Native American activism since the 1960s and 1970s. These have included Christopher Columbus mock trials in St. Paul, Minnesota, as well as American Columbus Day procession protests and interruptions.

Other indigenous peoples have advocated for holidays to be established in honor of their accomplishments and history. Brazil, for instance, observes “National Indigenous Peoples’ Day” on April 19 in South America.

Under the leadership of President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan recognized August 1 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2016. She also declared that the government is committed to advancing the rights of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples and raising public knowledge of their culture and history.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day was established in the Philippines on October 29, 1987, by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and a number of regional indigenous communities.


The story of indigenous people, who have been subject to discrimination, subjugation, and annihilation since the dawn of history is a painful one. However, we cannot lose hope because their struggle for dignity, liberation, and true equality continues today.

The day is just another opportunity to recognize the struggles faced by these communities in our country as well as work towards ensuring that they are not forgotten.

We invite you all to observe this important day with humility and solidarity. By acting together we can ensure that indigenous peoples’ history does not repeat itself in future years.

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