Join | Login

SPSSI Recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Today, on Monday, October 11, 2021, SPSSI will be observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day. In recognition of this holiday, SPSSI’s Central Office in Washington, DC will be closed.  

Participants in the United Nations International Conference on Discrimination against Indigenous Populations in the Americas introduced Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1977. They proposed that Indigenous Peoples’ Day replace Columbus Day because for many Native people, Columbus Day represented the colonial takeover of the Americas.  

The scientific literature supports and elaborates on this point. For example, in a 2020 paper, Eason, Pope, Becenti, and Fryberg noted that in American educational contexts, the story of Christopher Columbus is still, “used as evidence of the ‘glory’ of a once rugged, uncivilized, and largely uninhabited continent transformed into the great United States of America.” Based on findings from their two large-scale studies, the authors of the paper also suggested that garnering more widespread societal support for adopting Indigenous Peoples’ Day requires interrogating the roots of national identification and rejecting negative stereotypes about Native Americans. 

Indigenous Peoples’ Day not only celebrates the history and enduring contributions of Native Americans. It also encourages all Americans to rethink American history and understand that history within the context of more accurate and diverse narratives and perspectives.  

We need to embrace our entire history, and we need not be afraid of it. 
I’m just amazed. The more I read, the less I know.  
And yet, I am endlessly amazed by what I learn about us—all of us. 
And one of the things that is clearest to me is that there’s no such thing as Native American history. 
There’s no such thing as African American history, or Irish American history, or any of that other stuff. 
There’s just history.  
All of our ancestors were part of it.  
And it is absolutely magnificent. It is heroic. It is tragic. It is beautiful. It is desperately ugly at times. 
But it’s ours. 
And we inherit it.  
And that helps us understand who we are and why we are the way we are today. 

—Kevin Gover, citizen of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, 
Director of the National Museum of the American Indian (2007-2021), 
Under Secretary for Museums and Culture at the Smithsonian (2021-Present)

To see the full TED talk from which these remarks were excerpted click here.

Relevant Resources

From Smithsonian Magazine: Rethinking How We Celebrate American History. This article is a resource of the National Museum of the American Indian and provides a succinct overview on how Indigenous Peoples' Day originated. 

From IllumiNative: An Advocate's Guide to Supporting Indigenous Peoples' Day. IllumiNative is a national, Native-led nonprofit committed to amplifying contemporary Native voices, stories, and issues to advance justice, equity, and social impact.

From the White House: A Proclamation on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, 2021. On Friday, October 8, the White House issued a proclamation in which the President declared that Monday, October 11, 2021 would be observed as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. According to the proclamation: "For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures. Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples’ resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society. We also recommit to supporting a new, brighter future of promise and equity for Tribal Nations — a future grounded in Tribal sovereignty and respect for the human rights of Indigenous people in the Americas and around the world."

From SPSSI: Dr. Stephanie Fryberg's Training on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. In January of 2020, SPSSI hosted an advocacy day on Capitol Hill to raise awareness about the epidemic of violence against Indigenous women and girls and reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Watch this video of Dr. Fryberg's training for advocates to learn more about what the research says.

From SPSSI: Lisa Brunner's Conference Keynote Entitled "Be a Good Ancestor." Lisa Brunner is a Citizen of the White Earth Ojibwe Nation, a leading expert on the topic of violence against Native American and Alaska Native women, and a seasoned advocate who has worked at the local, state, national, and international policy levels. Currently, she serves as an Adjunct Faculty Instructor at White Earth Tribal and Community College, an institution of higher learning dedicated to academic excellence grounded in Anishinaabe culture, values, and traditions. Watch this video of her keynote address at SPSSI's 2021 Virtual Conference. 

From SPSSI: Relevant Journal Articles. SPSSI members can log into the journals through our website to access the full papers:  


Go back to SPSSI's position statements webpage