These States are Observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Columbus Day has been a political lightning rod across the U.S. for years now — particularly to Indigenous people. Some states are now doing something about it. Per CNN, a number of states have moved to officially observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a holiday to recognize the native populations that were displaced and wiped out after Christopher Columbus and other European explorers reached the continent.
President Joe Biden became the first U.S. president to issue a proclamation commemorating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, writing that today, October 11, was a day on which the country “celebrates the invaluable contributions and resilience of Indigenous peoples, recognizes their inherent sovereignty, and commits to honoring the Federal Government’s trust and treaty obligations to Tribal Nations.”
Columbus Day is technically a federal holiday, which means it is recognized by our government and brings the closure of non-essential government offices, like post offices and banks. However, states and local governments can choose not to observe a federal holiday, which is the case with a growing number of cities and states — who can change the name and intent of the October holiday altogether.
As many as 130 cities across the country have ditched Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples Day — and the list grows yearly. Below are the states that officially celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of or in addition to Columbus Day:
Alabama: Celebrates both Columbus Day and American Indian Heritage Day.
Alaska: Observes Indigenous Peoples’ Day as of 2017. Gov. Bill Walker signed observances of the holiday in 2015 and 2016 before making the switch official in 2017.
Hawaii: Observes Discoverers’ Day in place of Columbus Day, with state law describing it as a day “in recognition of the Polynesian discoverers of the Hawaiian Islands.”
Maine: Observes Indigenous Peoples’ Day as of 2019, when Gov. Janet Mills said it was a step “in healing the divisions of the past, in fostering inclusiveness” and “in telling a fuller, deeper history.”
Nebraska: Beginning in 2021, the state will recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day in addition to Columbus Day.
New Mexico: Observes Indigenous Peoples’ Day as of 2019. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the day would celebrate the state’s “23 sovereign indigenous nations and the essential place of honor native citizens hold in the fabric of our great state.”
Oklahoma: In 2019, the state voted to move Native American Day to the same day as Columbus Day so the two could be celebrated concurrently.
Oregon: Passed a law in 2021 designating the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
South Dakota: Has observed Native American Day since 1990.
Vermont: A law was passed in 2019 replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.