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What is Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a holiday that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures. It is celebrated across the United States on the second Monday in October, coinciding with the federal holiday of Columbus Day.

The day serves as an opportunity to recognize the important contributions and influence of Native Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. It also raises awareness about the struggles and challenges faced by Indigenous communities both historically and in the present day.

Origins and Meaning of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Indigenous Peoples’ Day emerged as a counter-celebration to Columbus Day, which has been critiqued for glorifying European colonialism while ignoring the devastating impact it had on Native American populations. The idea of replacing Columbus Day gained traction in the late 20th century.

The holiday aims to shift the focus from Christopher Columbus to the Indigenous peoples of North America. It acknowledges their rich cultures, traditions, and resilience in the face of colonization, forced assimilation, and systemic oppression. By celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, communities honor the history, heritage, and contemporary lives of Native Americans.

When is Indigenous Peoples’ Day Celebrated?

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is celebrated on the second Monday of October each year, which falls on the same date as the federally recognized Columbus Day holiday. In 2023, Indigenous Peoples’ Day will be observed on Monday, October 9th.

While the specific date remains the same, the observance and recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day vary across states, cities, and institutions. Some choose to celebrate it as an alternative to Columbus Day, while others observe it in addition to or separately from the federal holiday.

Is Indigenous Peoples’ Day a Federal Holiday?

As of 2023, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not a federal holiday in the United States. The second Monday of October remains designated as Columbus Day at the federal level. However, there has been a growing movement to recognize and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day across the country.

While Columbus Day is still a federal holiday, an increasing number of states, cities, and universities have chosen to replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day or observe the two holidays concurrently. This shift reflects a growing acknowledgment of the importance of recognizing and honoring Indigenous peoples.

Biden Administration’s Recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

In 2021, the Biden administration took a significant step by officially recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day. President Joe Biden issued a proclamation declaring October 11, 2021, as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, alongside the Columbus Day proclamation. This marked the first time a U.S. president had formally acknowledged the holiday.

The proclamation emphasized the importance of honoring Native Americans, their resilience, and their contributions to the nation. It also acknowledged the painful history of violence, displacement, and broken promises endured by Indigenous communities. While the proclamation did not establish Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a federal holiday, it signaled a shift in the national discourse and recognition of Indigenous peoples.

States and Cities Observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Although Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not a federal holiday, a growing number of states, cities, and institutions have embraced its observance. As of 2023, several states, including Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, and South Dakota, have officially replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Additionally, numerous cities across the United States, such as Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix, and Boston, have also made the switch to recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day. These local observances often involve ceremonies, educational events, and celebrations that honor Indigenous cultures and raise awareness about their histories and contemporary issues.

State/City Indigenous Peoples’ Day Recognition
Alaska Statewide observance
Hawaii Statewide observance
Maine Statewide observance
New Mexico Statewide observance
Oregon Statewide observance
South Dakota Statewide observance
Seattle, WA City observance
Los Angeles, CA City observance
Denver, CO City observance
Phoenix, AZ City observance
Boston, MA City observance

What’s Open or Closed on Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

Since Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not a federal holiday, the openings and closures of businesses, schools, and government offices can vary depending on state and local observances. In general, if a state or city officially recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Day, there may be closures similar to those on Columbus Day.

However, it’s important to note that even in places where Indigenous Peoples’ Day is observed, not all businesses or services may be closed. It’s always best to check with specific establishments or local government websites for the most accurate information regarding their operations on the holiday.

Federal Offices, Post Offices, and Banks

Federal offices, such as government agencies and post offices, are typically closed on Columbus Day, as it is a federal holiday. This means that in most cases, they will also be closed on Indigenous Peoples’ Day if it falls on the same date. Mail delivery services are usually suspended as well.

Banks have the option to close on Columbus Day, and many choose to do so. However, some banks may remain open, especially if they are located in states or cities that do not observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It’s recommended to check with your specific bank for their holiday hours.

Service/Business Typical Status on Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Federal Offices Closed
Post Offices Closed (No mail delivery)
Banks Many closed, some may be open

Schools, Stores, and Other Businesses

The opening or closure of schools on Indigenous Peoples’ Day can vary depending on the school district and local policies. Some schools may remain open, while others may close in observance of the holiday. It’s best to check with your local school district for specific information.

Most retail stores, supermarkets, and restaurants generally remain open on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. However, some businesses may choose to close or operate with reduced hours to allow their employees to observe the holiday. It’s always a good idea to check with individual businesses for their specific operating hours.

  • Schools: Openings and closures vary by school district and local policies.
  • Retail Stores: Generally open, but some may have reduced hours.
  • Supermarkets: Typically open regular hours.
  • Restaurants: Most remain open, but it’s best to check with individual establishments.

Columbus Day vs Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The shift from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day reflects a growing recognition of the painful history and experiences of Native American communities. Columbus Day, which commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492, has been a subject of controversy and criticism.

Critics argue that celebrating Columbus Day ignores the devastating impact of European colonization on Indigenous populations, including the enslavement, forced displacement, and cultural erasure endured by Native Americans. The holiday has been seen as perpetuating a narrative that glorifies colonialism while overlooking the perspectives and struggles of Indigenous peoples.

Growing Movement to Replace Columbus Day

In response to these concerns, there has been a growing movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This movement aims to reframe the holiday and shift the focus towards honoring and celebrating the rich histories, cultures, and resilience of Indigenous communities.

Many cities, states, and universities across the United States have officially made the switch to recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This change is seen as an important step towards acknowledging the historical injustices faced by Native Americans and promoting a more inclusive and accurate representation of history.

Recognizing the Mistreatment of Indigenous People

Indigenous Peoples’ Day serves as an opportunity to raise awareness about the mistreatment and marginalization of Indigenous communities throughout history. It acknowledges the legacy of colonialism, including the forced removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands, the suppression of their languages and cultures, and the ongoing struggles for sovereignty and self-determination.

By celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, communities can engage in meaningful conversations about the impact of historical trauma, the importance of cultural preservation, and the need for social justice and equity for Indigenous peoples. It provides a platform to amplify Indigenous voices, celebrate their achievements, and work towards building a more inclusive and respectful society.

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By James Altucher

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