State Watch

Here are 16 places celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day for the first time this year

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A steady stream of states and municipalities are replacing Columbus Day with a celebration called Indigenous Peoples Day.

Although Columbus Day remains a federal holiday, critics say the U.S. should stop celebrating Christopher Columbus’s voyages specifically and European colonization in general.

The first location to adopt the counter-celebration making Native Americans the focus was Berkeley, Calif., in 1992, although South Dakota first celebrated Native Americans’ Day instead of Columbus Day in 1990.

Several states — including Vermont, Maine, New Mexico, Alaska, South Dakota, Oregon and Hawaii — celebrate the alternate holiday as of 2019.

{mosads}This year alone, more than a dozen new states, cities and towns adopted Indigenous Peoples Day, which is alternately spelled “Indigenous People’s Day” or “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” Here are some of the most recent:


The city of Dallas voted last week to designate the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day, according to KERA News.

“I want to make sure my colleagues understand and recognize that we are not replacing Columbus Day here,” Councilman Omar Narvaez said. “You want to know why? Because the city of Dallas does not recognize Columbus Day anyway. So we’re not replacing it. … So this would be an actual honoring of indigenous peoples.”

District of Columbia

The Washington, D.C., city council passed legislation on Oct. 9 declaring Indigenous Peoples Day, according to a Tuesday tweet from D.C. Councilman David Grosso, with 10 members voting in favor of the measure compared to two who voted “present.”

“Columbus Day was officially designated as a federal holiday in 1937 despite the fact that Columbus did not discover North America, despite the fact that millions of people were already living in North America upon his arrival in the Americas, and despite the fact that Columbus never set foot on the shores of the current United States,” Grosso said in a statement.

“Columbus enslaved, colonized, mutilated, and massacred thousands of Indigenous People in the Americas.”

Alexandria, Va.

Alexandria officials voted unanimously to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day in September.

“Renaming Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day would provide an opportunity to acknowledge the overlooked history of oppression and the decimation of Native Americans,” the city said in a memo in September.

“This would be a crucial step towards balancing the existing dominant historical narrative, which utilizes the term ‘New World,’ to refer to a land that was inhabited by Indigenous people for an estimated 12,000 years prior to Columbus’ arrival in 1492,” the memo adds.


Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) proclaimed Indigenous Peoples Day in September after local activist Baley Champagne, a citizen of the United Houma Nation, petitioned him for the change.

“It helps recognize us. We come from a very rich culture in our country and state, but we sometimes go unnoticed. We’re still here, but we’re not celebrated or recognized. We go unnoticed a lot. This proclamation brings a conversation, awareness, and recognition. We still see you,” Champagne told WAFB9. “We’re not just in the history books.”


Vermont officially replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in May under a measure reluctantly signed by Gov. Phil Scott (R). Scott during his tenure had already recognized the day by proclamation rather than law.

“I know it’s controversial from many standpoints, from many people, but you know, it’s just a day, and we’ll get through it,” Scott said of the measure, according to the Burlington Free Press. “And we’ve been treating it as something different over the last couple of years through resolutions. Without any technical difficulties within the bill, I’ll probably sign it.”


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued a proclamation instituting Indigenous Peoples Day in the Great Lakes State on Monday.

“Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories, and aspirations, which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information,” it states, citing the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples endorsed by the U.S. in 2010.

“States should take effective measures, in consultation and cooperation with the indigenous peoples concerned, to combat prejudice and eliminate discrimination and to promote tolerance, understanding, and good relations among Indigenous peoples and all other segments of society,” it adds.


Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed Indigenous Peoples Day into law in the Pine Tree State in April.

“Our history is by no means perfect. But, for too long, it has been written and presented in a way that fails to acknowledge our shortcomings,” Mills said at the time.

“There is power in a name and in who we choose to honor. Today, we take another step in healing the divisions of the past, in fostering inclusiveness, in telling a fuller, deeper history, and in bringing the State and Maine’s tribal communities together to build a future shaped by mutual trust and respect,” she added.

New Mexico

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) formally removed Columbus Day from New Mexico’s list of official state holidays in April and replaced it with Indigenous Peoples Day.

State Rep. Derrick Lente (D), the measure’s sponsor, is a member of the Sandia Pueblo tribe.

“This day is an act of restorative justice for our Indigenous communities, and it is a time to reflect on our understanding of our country’s history, both the good and the bad. New Mexico’s Nations, Tribes, and Pueblos are what truly make us the Land of Enchantment, and I look forward to the Governor signing this important bill so we can properly honor our indigenous communities,” Lente said after the measure passed the legislature in March.


Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) signed an executive order this month at the Indian Community School in Franklin establishing Indigenous Peoples Day in the Badger State.

“Today, we seek to recognize and honor our state’s Indigenous communities while moving beyond a dated practice that perpetuates inaccurate teachings and honors genocide,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said, according to Native News Online.

“The story of Wisconsin’s Indigenous people has long been one of resistance and resilience. In the coming years, our administration will work to ensure that story evolves into one that includes respect and justice,” Barnes added.

Reno, Nev.

Reno became one of the most recent cities to make the transition in October after meeting with American Indian Movement of Northern Nevada activists.

“Beatings, whippings, rapes and murders were only some of the atrocities committed by this man and his followers,” reads an American Indian Movement of Northern Nevada petition that preceded the transition. “With this said I propose the idea of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day in the City of Reno. Let us Unite and join the 4 States and 57 U.S Cities that have already taken part in replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day.”

Several other cities and counties will also celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day for the first time this year, including: Grand Forks, N.D.; Marathon County, Wisconsin; Moorhead, Minn.; South Lake Tahoe, Calif.; Ventura County, California; and Wichita, Kan.

Changing the official name of Columbus Day is still under debate in many other places, including Colorado, the state that first began celebrating the holiday in 1905. Colorado state Rep. Adrienne Benavidez (D) plans to introduce a bill changing the name for the fourth time in the next legislative session, according to Denver’s local CBS affiliate.

Tags Christopher Columbus Columbus Day Federal holidays in the United States Indigenous peoples of the Americas Indigenous Peoples' Day Michelle Lujan Grisham Native Americans Public holidays in the United States

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