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10 Alternatives to Columbus Day Celebrated Around the United States

Shaunacy Ferro
A woman at a Los Angeles Indigenous Peoples Day event.
A woman at a Los Angeles Indigenous Peoples Day event. / David McNew/Getty Images
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Columbus Day has a complicated history, and many cities and states have recently voted to rename the annual holiday that falls the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day, honoring the cultures that existed in North America before Columbus arrived in 1492 and who were decimated by European colonization. Consider these 10 alternative celebrations taking place across the country.

1. INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY // BOULDER, COLORADO

Boulder, Colorado, has a packed itinerary of both online and in-person events to honor Indigenous Peoples Day. Events include a cooking class, language class, tapestry loom demonstration, and dances. The events begin on Saturday, October 9, and continue through Monday, October 11.

2. INDIGENOUS PEOPLES FESTIVAL // SEATTLE

While other cities dedicate a day to honoring their Native American culture and history, Seattle sets aside multiple days. The Indigenous Peoples Festival includes virtual panel discussions, performances, and an in-person SpiritWalk & Warrior Run. The festival kicks off on Tuesday, October 12.

3. NATIVE AMERICAN DAY AT THE CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL // CRAZY HORSE, SOUTH DAKOTA

South Dakota has celebrated Native American Day on the second Monday in October since 1990. It was the only state to vote not to observe Columbus Day state-wide until Vermont made the switch to Indigenous Peoples Day in 2017. The first celebration of the holiday was held at Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills, a monument to the Lakota leader who defeated General George Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. The memorial still hosts an annual celebration with performances from Native American dancers, singers, artists, and storytellers. Visitors also receive a free buffalo stew lunch.

4. AMERICAN INDIAN CELEBRATION // LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Los Angeles voted to make Indigenous Peoples Day a city-wide holiday for the first time in 2017, but organizations in the city had already been observing it before the official designation.

Nearby cities also host celebratory events. In Lancaster, California, the Antelope Valley Indian Museum will host its annual American Indian Celebration on October 16 and 17. The two-day celebration will feature artists, storytellers, kid-friendly activities, and snacks.

5. INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY NYC // RANDALL'S ISLAND, NEW YORK CITY

Each year, the Redhawk Native American Arts Council throws a free celebration on New York City’s Randall’s Island for Indigenous Peoples Day. The two-day event includes an overnight camp out, a sunrise ceremony, spoken word performances, guest talks from activists and cultural groups, and more.

6. OWÁMNI FALLING WATER FESTIVAL // MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA

This celebration of the Indigenous people who call Minnesota home is held on Saturday, October 9. The events are spread across the Father Hennepin Bluff Park and the Water Works Park, both alongside the Mississippi River. The festival features Indigenous music, art, food, and a chance to learn about historical artifacts.

7. SANTA FE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY CELEBRATION // SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO

New Mexico, home to 23 Native American tribes, voted in 2016 to begin recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day. In 2021, the central Santa Fe Plaza will play host to a weekend-long celebration full of dance performances that kicks off on Saturday, October 9. On Monday, October 11, the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts will host various walking tours and performances.

8. INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY // ASHLAND, OREGON

Oregon voted to officially recognize Indigenous Peoples Day in 2021. Since 2016, Ashland, Oregon, has hosted a variety of Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations put on by groups like Southern Oregon University (SOU), SOU’s Native American Student Union, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

9. TULSA NATIVE AMERICAN DAY CELEBRATION // TULSA, OKLAHOMA

Tulsa has celebrated Native American Day since 2016. The festivities are usually held in the city’s downtown arts district, though in 2021, all events will be virtual. There will be multiple vendors participating online as well.

10. BERKELEY POW-WOW AND INDIAN MARKET // BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA

For another virtual celebration, head over to Berkeley, California’s 29th annual Indigenous Peoples Day event, held on Monday, October 11. The annual Pow Wow and Indian Market will feature Indigenous artists, dancers, and community organizers.

A version of this story was originally published in 2017; it has been updated for 2021.

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