GOTNV Update: Celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day
Indigenous Peoples Day is a holiday that celebrates Indigenous peoples of North America. Instead of celebrating Christopher Columbus, Indigenous Peoples Day recognizes the first inhabitants of the land that later became the United States of America.
On June 24, 2017, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker signed Indigenous Peoples Day into legislation, replacing Columbus Day celebrations. The annual holiday takes place on the second Monday of October; this year it falls on October 14.
In the executive proclamation, Gov. Walker wrote, “Alaska is built upon the homelands and communities of the Indigenous peoples of this region, without whom the building of the state would not be possible.” He pointed out that 16 percent of Alaskans have Indigenous heritage, and that “the State opposes systematic racism toward Indigenous Peoples of Alaska or any Alaskans of any origin and promotes policies and practices that reflect the experiences of Indigenous Peoples, ensure greater access and opportunity, and honor our nation’s Indigenous roots, history.”
Indigenous Peoples Day was first sponsored by the United Nations in 1977, initiating discussions to replace the Columbus Day celebration. It was only in 1992, when a planned celebration of Columbus Day in San Francisco, California, was met with much resistance by delegates from the Bay Area Indian Alliance, that change took effect. Berkeley, California, was the first to adopt Indigenous Peoples Day in 1992. Since that time, many cities throughout the United States have adopted similar celebrations replacing Columbus Day. In addition, the following states officially recognize Indigenous Peoples Day: Alaska, Minnesota, Vermont, South Dakota, Nevada, Maine, Oregon, and New Mexico.
Indigenous Peoples Day was enacted by people who took part in local political processes and strived for positive change. Please continue to stay involved in local, state and federal elections. As the day nears to remember all Indigenous people and their many contributions to our nation, remember to make your voice heard through voting. Visiting Elders or a local school to share or volunteer is another way to honor Indigenous Peoples Day.