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5 Ways to Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day This Year

Photo: Courtesy of Andrew James

What began as an alternative celebration to Columbus Day, has since become a day to reckon with the U.S.’s relationship with Native peoples.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day was first instituted as a holiday in Berkley California in 1992, but only began to catch on in 2014 when many other cities and states began to adopt it after years of protest. What began as an alternative celebration to Columbus Day, has since become a day to reckon with the United States’ sordid relationship with Native peoples.

Part of that reckoning must be truthfully acknowledging the past, beginning with the mythology that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America. Countless children have been inundated with this falsehood, along with countless others. Teaching for Change, a Washington-based national education organization, and the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian works with K-12 teachers and students in sessions to combat these harmful mistruths, largely through the museum’s online platform Native Knowledge 360°. Last year, the museum hosted an online version of their Indigenous Peoples’ Curriculum Days and Teach-Ins.

These are just a few examples of the small, but necessary steps being taken to untangle the myths surrounding Columbus and the Native peoples. But as we reckon with the past, we must also look to the present and our future. There are plenty of other ways to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day; doing so honors their livelihood and traditions. Here’s a few ways you can celebrate this year:

1. Learn whose land you’re living on

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day starts with acknowledging the land you’re living on was taken from the Native peoples. Confused on how to do that? It’s actually quite simple. Native Land Digital has a map and Territory Acknowledgment Guide that allow you to enter in your address, or just click around to see the territories by location. There’s even a mobile app that’s compatible with iOS and Android.

2. Make a donation

Money talks, and a generous donation from you can help amplify the work being done by Indigenous peoples around the world. Below are a few organizations you can throw your support behind:

  • Cultural Survival: For more than 47 years, Cultural Survival has supported grassroots Indigenous community movements, media producers, community radio as well as host annual celebrations of Indigenous art and music from around the world.
  • Native American Rights Fund (NARF): The Native American Rights Fund is working to create a world where Native Americans have access to protected resources and life ways as well as one where tribes are able to manage their own affairs. The United States has made many broken promises to sovereign tribes, and it’s time those promises are upheld.
  • Native Wellness Institute: The institute provides essential resources to the Native community as they not only reckon with the trauma of the past, but keep the teachings and traditions of their ancestors alive for generations to come.
  • First Nations COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund: The Native community has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, thanks to food and water shortages. A donation allows the Response Fund to assist the tribal programs and nonprofit organizations that need it most.

3. Sign the petition to revoke Columbus Day’s federal holiday status

Even though many have taken to recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Columbus Day maintains its federal holiday status. Sign this petition and urge Congress to take action. Doing so won’t fully correct the crimes of the past, but it’s an easy step to take in reckoning with the white-washed past.

4. Attend an In-Person or Virtual Event

There are many events, both in-person and virtual, you can attend this year to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. New York City is hosting a two-day celebration on October 10th and October 11th, including performances, music, public speakers and more.

You can also register (for free) for the Smithsonian’s virtual Youth in Action panel, which outlines ways Black-Indigenous activists are working within their communities to advance change and social justice. If you can’t make it, the panel will be available on-demand after it takes place. You can find similar panels at other libraries and museums as well.

5. Continue to educate yourself and your loved ones

The work being done to support Indigenous communities shouldn’t be limited to one day out of the year; it should be ongoing. American Indians in Children’s Literature has put together this list of books for all ages that covers a wide variety of topics.

VisionMaker has also prepared this list of educational films that talk about everything from Columbus Days’ problematic history to the challenges currently facing Native communities.

You can also listen to this radio broadcast about the history of the Wampanoag Peoples, who were violent removed from what we now recognize as southeastern Massachusetts after living on the land for more than 12,000 years.

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