Indigenous Peoples Day is dedicated to honoring the contributions, history and culture of indigenous Americans, or Native Americans, but most people in the United States are still learning about this alternative to Columbus Day.
It was first celebrated as Native American Day in South Dakota in 1982. Since then, it has slowly been instituted as an official holiday in various cities across the United States.
It’s commonly celebrated with festivals, parades, educational panels and other activities meant to build appreciation for Native American and awareness for the suffering the community has faced.
Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day are celebrated annually on the second Monday in October.
For years, politicians and activists have fought to replace Columbus Day with the alternative holiday, ending the national tradition of celebrating European explorer Christopher Columbus who came to the Americas in 1942.
Many argue Columbus represents the violence inflicted on Native American communities by Western European colonizers. In fact, 2020 brought a major push to have statutes and other memorials honoring the famous Italian explorer permanently removed.
Columbus Day has been an official federal U.S. holiday since the 1930s. However, an increasing number of states and cities have started acknowledging Indigenous Peoples Day alongside Columbus Day.
Earlier this month, Houston joined the ranks of cities celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day after city councilmembers voted 15-2 in favor of the change. San Antonio, Austin and Dallas are other large Texas cities that celebrate it.
The following state governments and other institutions recently joined the movement to replace Columbus Day all together.
- Washington, D.C. (Legislation passed that will change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day only for 2020.)
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- South Dakota
- Salem, Massachusetts
- Rockville, Maryland
- School districts in Montclair, New Jersey
- School districts in Loudoun County, Virginia
- Concord, New Hampshire
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Chicago Public Schools (Chicago Board of Education formally replaced Columbus Day as an official holiday in 2020.)
- Alexandria Virginia
Columbus Day is expected to be much different this year in major US cities, like Chicago – with the presence of a nationwide movement to replace the federally-recognized holiday altogether and the absence of the city’s annual parade.
Still, members of Chicago’s Italian American community have planned a rally at Arrigo Park in Little Italy, a celebration they say is more important than ever this year.
“If anything, to be honest with you, this would probably be a much larger celebration and much larger parade because of that,” said Sergio Giangrande, president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. “Our Italian American community is stronger than ever.”