Native American Day Celebration, History & Significance
Native American Day is the celebration of North America’s Indigenous peoples and their cultures. Native Americans encompass hundreds of different tribes, from the Inuit of Alaska to the Cherokees of the southeastern woodlands, the Seneca Nations of the Northeast to the Navajo of the Southwest each having its own unique culture and language. However, it is steadily growing in both scope and popularity. Some states celebrate it on the second Monday of October, while others celebrate on different dates.
When do we celebrate Native American Day?
You celebrate Native American Day on different dates depending on where in the United States you are based.
- In Nevada and California, native day celebrations are on the fourth Friday in September.
- In Washington the Friday immediately following the fourth Thursday in November, is recognized and honored as “Native American Heritage Day.”
- Native American Day falls on the second Monday in October,In Wisconsin and South Dakota,
- In Tennessee, fourth Monday in September of each year is observed in as “American Indian Day”.
- Around thirteen states do not celebrate Columbus Day (Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, DC; Wisconsin).
History of Native American Day
Native Americans have existed long before the Europeans decided to colonize and take over the wild forests and plains of the United States. By the time Europeans traveled to America during the 15th century, over 50 million Native Americans lived throughout the continent. They have a steep root in culture and history that has been cultivating for thousands of years. Native American Day appreciates the long history of culture and traditions that Native Americans have protected throughout time.
Native American Day Timeline
- In 1968, Governor Ronald Reagan signed a resolution for a holiday “American Indian Day”, to be heldon every Fourth Friday in September.
- In 1998, the California Assembly passed AB 1953. Itwhich made Native American Day an official state holiday, observed annually on the fourth Friday in September.
- In 1990, United Nations in Geneva,Switzerland sponsored the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas. They discussioned on replacing Columbus Day in the United States with a celebration to be known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
- Council of Berkeley, California, declared October 12 as a “Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People” and 1992 as the “Year of Indigenous People”. The city implemented related programs in schools, libraries, and museum and symbolically renamed Columbus Day as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”.
- Beginning in 1993, Berkeley has also held an annual pow wow and festival on Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
- In the coming years, following Berkeley’s action, other local governments and institutions either renamed or canceled Columbus Day, to celebrate Native American history and cultures. It meant to avoid celebrating Columbus and the European colonization of the Americas.
The observance focuses on celebrating the rich and diverse culture, heritage, and history of tribes across the nation. Each nation carries its own traditions, rituals, and beliefs. The day celebrates their incredible knowledge, amazing contributions, and enriching heritage.
In South Dakota, people celebrate the day by sharing educational resources to focus on the background, culture, and traditions of Native Americans.
A lot of celebrations occur throughout different parts of California. For instance, some churches, community groups, and organizations support Native American Day. They carry out activities focused on raising awareness about the traditions, culture, and history of the indigenous people in the U.S.
Some of the cultural activities include the likes of pow wows and markets. Pow wows are gatherings of indigenous people from North America. Organizations conduct traditional dances, art displays, and ceremonies.
People celebrate this holiday by learning about the different kinds of tribes and cultures that persisted among all odds including diseases, warfare, massacres, and forced assimilation.
How can you contribute in celebration?
You can honor Native American cultures by learning about the tribes of your local area. Be respectful of their traditions and take the time to learn their history. Help educate people about the cultures and traditions of the Native Americans. You can Advocate and support the Native Americans in their expression of their culture. Help protect their rights by standing with them as companions.
It is believed that Native Americans were the first Americans to populate and live in the United States. Native Americans had populated the entire North American continent from the Pacific to the Atlantic, as well as from the northern reaches of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico before the first explorers and settlers came from Europe. They play a huge part in the history of the United States.
They have been a part of the American tradition even before the United States began. However, due to hundreds of years of persecution, these tribes have almost vanished and many have integrated into modern society. Native American Day aims at changing the way people view Native Americans. It is all about paying honor to Native American communities and their cultural contributions to the history of America.