Cities & States That Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day Are Part Of A Growing List

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On Tuesday, New Mexico joined a growing number of cities and states that celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day in place of Columbus Day, when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation approving the change. It joins five states in designating a day to formally honor Native American people, as well as dozens of cities that already celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day in an effort to pay respect to the indigenous communities across the country.

The movement to officially recognize indigenous groups instead of Columbus Day each October has stretched all the way back to 1990, when then-South Dakota Gov. George Mickelson sought to improve relations between indigenous people and white residents in the state, according to Argus Leader. Mickelson signed a measure that passed unanimously in the state legislature to replace Columbus Day with "Native Americans' Day." The state of Hawaii also has an alternative to Columbus Day — Discoverers' Day, which celebrates the Polynesian discoverers of the islands that make up the state, according to the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

To many indigenous people, Christopher Columbus represents acts of of mass violence and brutality. Historians have long pointed to Columbus' ugly treatment of Native American people. Jonathan Nez, the Navajo Nation president, wrote in a statement on Facebook after the New Mexico governor signed the legislation on Tuesday, "For many years, Indigenous people have protested Columbus Day because it celebrates colonialism, oppression, and injustice inflicted on Indigenous peoples. Observing Indigenous Peoples' Day allows citizens to recognize our rich heritage and represents a step toward healing and growth."

Here are the states and cities that celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day.

1. Alaska

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Alaska, which is also known as the Last Frontier state, is one that has celebrated the legacy of Native Americans in a permanent capacity since 2017. Former Gov. Bill Walker signed legislation to recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day instead of Columbus Day that year, saying in a statement, "This official recognition is just one way we as a state can acknowledge and celebrate the contributions made by First Peoples throughout the history of this land," according to local news outlet KTUU.

2. Minnesota

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The Gopher State has recognized Indigenous Peoples' Day instead of Columbus Day since 2014, Al Jazeera reported. At the time, Minneapolis city council member Cam Gordon told Star Tribune, "I see this as a very small piece of the much larger healing that has to happen in our country so that we can be whole again."

3. Vermont

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In 2016, Vermont replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day, NBC5 reported. While signing the measure at the time, Gov. Peter Shumlin told the press that it was "an opportunity to celebrate indigenous heritage and resiliency."

4. Oregon

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In 2017, Oregon declared Oct. 9 as Indigenous Peoples' Day as an alternative to Columbus Day.

5. Nevada

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Nevada hasn't gotten rid of Columbus Day, but it has officially designated Aug. 9 as Indigenous Peoples' Day since 2017.

6. Maine

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In late April, Maine became yet another state in America to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day. The state's governor, Janet Mills, signed the bill calling for the replacement into law at the Maine State House, according to CNN. In a statement, the Democratic governor said, "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."

7. New Mexico

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As mentioned before, New Mexico became another state in the country in early April to drop Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples' Day. The state's Democratic governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, said Indigenous Peoples' Day would be "a celebration of New Mexico's 23 sovereign indigenous nations and the essential place of honor native citizens hold in the fabric of our great state," according to CNN.

8. Indigenous Peoples' Day At City Level

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A growing number of cities in the United States now celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day. According to Time, the cities that do so are:

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Berkeley, CA
  • Santa Cruz, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Denver, CO
  • Ann Arbor, MI
  • Eugene, OR
  • Ithaca, NY
  • Tulsa, OK
  • Cambridge, MA
  • Durham, NH
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Nashville, TN
  • Madison, WI
  • San Fernando, CA
  • Burbank, CA
  • Long Beach, CA
  • San Luis Obispo, CA
  • Watsonville, CA
  • Olympia, WA
  • Spokane, WA
  • Bainbridge Island, WA
  • Grand Rapids, MN
  • St. Paul, MN
  • Durango, CO
  • Boulder, CO
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Traverse City, MI
  • Alpena, MI
  • East Lansing, MI
  • Ypsilanti, MI
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Portland, OR
  • Newstead, NY
  • Anadarko, OK
  • Norman, OK
  • Tahlequah, OK
  • Carrboro, NC
  • Asheville, NC
  • Belfast, ME
  • Bangor, ME
  • Orono, ME
  • Amherst, MA
  • Northampton, MA
  • Harpers Ferry, WV
  • Lawrence, KS
  • Davenport, IA
  • Moscow, ID
  • Oberlin, OH
  • Bexar County, TX
  • Austin, TX

Indigenous Peoples' Day is celebrated in various forms across the country, according to Indian Country Today, and sometimes on different dates.

Though support for replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day isn't yet at the same level on Capitol Hill, some lawmakers like California Sen. Kamala Harris and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have backed the idea. And who knows — in a few more years, more of their colleagues may join the call for a federal Indigenous Peoples' Day as well.