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Indigenous Peoples' Day

Indigenous Peoples' Day celebrates the culture, traditions, history, and contributions of Native Americans, and acknowledges that they were the first inhabitants of the Americas. Taking place on the same day as Columbus Day—the second Monday of October—the holiday also recognizes Columbus's atrocities and enslavement of Native peoples. A day to rethink history, Indigenous Peoples' Day exposes the irony of the belief that Columbus is the "discoverer" of the Americas, when people were there before him, and it acknowledges that the colonial takeover of the Americas began with him, which led to millions of deaths and the forced assimilation of Native peoples. Indigenous Peoples' Day started as an alternative holiday or counter-celebration by those opposed to Columbus, who believe that he represents the violent colonization of the Western Hemisphere.

Indigenous Peoples' Day is celebrated as an official holiday in many states, cities, towns, and universities. Events such as concerts, lectures, prayer vigils, powwows, rallies, and symposiums are held. Protests of Christopher Columbus sometimes take place. There is often a focus on Native American history in schools on the day. There is also an aim to focus on Native Americans in the present, and not to just see them as part of the past.

The roots of the day go back to 1977, when the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas, sponsored by the United Nations, was held in Geneva, Switzerland. There, discussions arose about replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day in the United States. In 1989, South Dakota became the first state to honor Native Americans on Christopher Columbus Day, when they instituted Native Americans' Day on the date. Berkeley, California, became one of the first cities to adopt Indigenous Peoples' Day, when they started it in 1992, on the 500th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in the Americas. Various states, cities, and universities have followed Berkeley, and canceled or replaced Columbus Day since.

How to Observe Indigenous Peoples' Day

Observe the day by participating in events related to it taking place in your community, such as concerts, lectures, prayer vigils, powwows, rallies, or symposiums. If your state or city doesn't officially observe Indigenous Peoples' Day, you could write to your state and local representatives asking them to consider making such a day official. Another way to mark the day could be to visit a museum dedicated to Native Americans, such as the National Museum of the American Indian (located in both Washington, D.C. and New York City), the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, or the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. Other ways to observe the day could include donating to a Native American organization or reading a book on Native Americans or Native American history, such as A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, or An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States. A popular book for younger people that explores Christopher Columbus and Native Americans is Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years. You could also watch Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee or another film that focuses on Native Americans.

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