DelBene, Torres, Bonamici, Davids, Lujan, Heinrich Introduce Legislation to Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Today, U.S. Representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Norma Torres (CA-35), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), and Sharice Davids (KS-03), along with Senators Ben Ray Luján (NM) and Martin Heinrich (NM), introduced legislation to replace the term Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in federal law and regulations and to establish Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a public holiday.
For many indigenous people, the celebration of Columbus Day is a painful one. Too often, it appears to be a state-sponsored celebration of the history of violence and acts of brutality inflicted upon their communities. Unfortunately, we have failed as a country to recognize that difficult history and honor the roots, traditions, and cultural contributions of our tribal nations and indigenous peoples. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is currently celebrated on the second Monday of October in at least 13 states and more than 100 cities.
The lawmakers released the following statements:
“My Indigenous Peoples’ Day legislation is an opportunity to honor the true nature of our founding,” said Representative Torres. “This legislation helps our federal government move beyond an outdated practice that perpetuates inaccurate teachings and devalues the history of indigenous people. This holiday should be focused on remembering the hardships that indigenous peoples have endured and honoring our country’s first inhabitants.”
“Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an opportunity to commemorate Indigenous peoples' vibrant cultures and significant contributions to our nation, from before we became a union to every corner of our country today—but is also a day to acknowledge the persecution and discrimination that Native peoples have faced for centuries,” said Representative Davids. “As one of the first Native American women ever elected to Congress and a proud member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, I am honored to join my colleagues in calling for the national celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”
“We must reckon with our country’s long, painful history of colonization,” said Congresswoman Bonamici. “Making Indigenous Peoples Day a federal holiday will provide a meaningful opportunity to celebrate the powerful history, traditions, and cultural contributions of our Indigenous communities. I am pleased to join Congresswoman Torres in this important effort.”
“Honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a meaningful way our country can come together to celebrate Tribal nations, cultures, and people that play an important role in our shared history. This can also be an opportunity to shed light on the dark history of colonization in the United States and how we have treated indigenous peoples in the past. I thank Representative Torres for leading this cause as we celebrate the stories, the strength, and the innumerable contributions of indigenous peoples across the country,” said Congresswoman DelBene.
“I’m proud to help lead the effort in the Senate to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day – an important recognition of Native Americans’ contributions to our society, economy and history,” said Senator Luján, a Member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “New Mexico, which is home to 23 Tribal Nations and Pueblos, made history in 2019 by recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day as an official holiday, and I’m hopeful that Congress can make this a reality for the entire nation. Let this day serve as a celebration of our country’s Tribal Nations and Native communities, and a reminder of the work ahead, to continue to strengthen and improve the federal government’s relationship with Tribal governments and Indigenous peoples.”
"By celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day, we lift up the strength and resilience of America's Tribal Nations,” said Senator Heinrich. “I'm proud to stand with New Mexico's Tribes and Pueblos who have led the way to re-frame this national holiday to honor all of the significant contributions and diverse cultures of our Native communities."
The landmark piece of legislation is supported by The Navajo Nation, The Cherokee Nation, Indigenous Peoples’ Day Initiative, Association on American Indian Affairs, National Council of Urban Indian Health, National Congress of American Indians, and the Episcopal Church.
"If the United States chooses to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we acknowledge a history marked by broken promises, violence, and deprivation in hopes of creating a brighter future where we can stand by one another with cooperation and mutual respect. By knowing the story of Indigenous Peoples, we understand ourselves and others better. It binds us together and reaffirms that we are all American. The Native American experience is not separate from the American story, but is crucial to that story. It is the hope of my community that this day will help alleviate the effects of oppression and work to create future generations who understand the importance of our shared experiences in hopes of creating a stronger, more unified nation,” said Dylan O. Baca, President, Indigenous Peoples’ Initiative.
“Indigenous People’s Day is long overdue as a recognized Federal holiday. We are honored that this bill recognizes American Indian/Alaska Native culture instead of celebrating the atrocities that persisted during colonization. It is pertinent that the resilient history and culture of AI/AN people is reflected correctly and is not devalued by colonial narratives.” said Francys Crevier, (Algonquin) CEO National Council of Urban Indian Health.
We are grateful that Congress is taking this important step forward to acknowledge the contributions and struggles of Indigenous Peoples in the United States. Every opportunity we have to share the truth of our collective histories gives all of us a stronger foundation from which to build a true representative democracy. And we cannot know the truth without first acknowledging the original – and continuing – caretakers of this Turtle Island,” said Shannon O’Loughlin, Chief Executive & Attorney, Association on American Indian Affairs.
“We thank Congresswoman Torres for championing the cause of Indigenous peoples. I believe the name change will create a ripple of positive transformation throughout Indian Country and allow for future Indigenous generations to reclaim their identity with pride,” said President Nez, Navajo Nation.
“Cherokee Nation supports legislation replacing ‘‘Columbus Day’’ with ‘‘Indigenous People’s Day’’ and applauds Congresswoman Torres for her leadership on this issue. It is past time for the United States to recognize the integral role Native people play in the history, economy, and future of our country. The second Monday of October will be a day for people across the United States to celebrate and honor the significant contributions of Native tribes as well as the beautiful culture of our Native people,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuk Hoskin, Jr.
“The National Congress of American Indians applauds the efforts of Representative Torres, and Senators Heinrich and Lujan for introducing the Indigenous Peoples Day Act. NCAI believes in a true and accurate account of the history of the Americas, which must include recognition of the Indigenous peoples who have lived in these lands since time immemorial, and long before Christopher Columbus set sail. NCAI supports changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in order to set the historical record straight and out of respect for the culture, language and history of our Indigenous ancestors,” said Dante Desiderio, CEO of National Congress of American Indians.
Text of the Indigenous People’s Day Legislation is available here.