Several cities, states, and municipalities across the US now use the second Monday in October to honor and celebrate Native American history, cultures, and communities.
As America grapples with structural racism and the coronavirus pandemic, Indigenous Peoples’ Day offers us an opportunity to reflect on how Native traditions and teachings can offer guidance on how to work through the pain of racism towards a society that honors a coexistence of all the people and cultures that make America.
“The significance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a recognition of the fact that when Columbus landed on these shores, there were millions of people living here with rich cultures, traditions, languages, and communities who called this land home,” said Dr. Michelle Sarche, Ascend Fellow and associate professor in the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Health’s Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health (CAIANH).
CAIANH promotes the health and well-being of American Indians and Alaska Natives, of all ages, by pursuing research, training, continuing education, technical assistance, and information dissemination within a biopsychosocial framework that recognizes the unique cultural contexts of this special population.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day also represents a conscious effort to undo the practice of invisibilization and reaffirm Native peoples’ presence and right to existence.
“We are here, we are now, we are current. We’re not in your history books. We’re your neighbors,” said Dr. Joseph Hobot, Ascend Fellow and president and CEO of the American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center (American Indian OIC).
Founded in 1979 as a response to considerable education and employment disparities faced by American Indians living in and around South Minneapolis, the American Indian OIC provides education, training, and human services to American Indians who wish to pursue career opportunities.
So this Indigenous Peoples’ Day, take time to explore the full depth and breadth of Indigenous cultures and communities. A few resources to get you started are below.
- Watch the full conversation here
- Illuminative’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day Toolkit
- Indigenous Peoples’ Day, from the National Museum of the American Indian
- Project 562, a national photography project dedicated to photographing over 562 federally recognized tribes in the United States
- Native-Land.ca is a website dedicated to helping people across the world learn more about their local Indigenous history
We invite you to celebrate with the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) at the Aspen Institute here.
Read Ascend Fellows call to action to dismantle white supremacy and create a new social contract here.