Everything You Need to Know About Indigenous Peoples' Day

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A student of Anahuacalmecac International University Preparatory of North America school for indigenous students holds incense during an event celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day in the Hollywood area on October 8, 2017 of Los Angeles, Californiaa. The event is a celebration of the Los Angeles County's decision to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Both the city and the county of Los Angeles have approved the replacement on each second Monday in October, starting no later than 2019.
A student of Anahuacalmecac International University Preparatory of North America school for indigenous students holds incense during an event celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day in the Hollywood area on October 8, 2017 of Los Angeles, Californiaa. The event is a celebration of the Los Angeles County's decision to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Both the city and the county of Los Angeles have approved the replacement on each second Monday in October, starting no later than 2019.

David McNew/Getty

Indigenous Peoples' Day is a holiday that honors Native American peoples and their ancestors for their resilience, inherent sovereignty and the impact they've had on our nation across many generations.

Each year, the day is observed on the second Monday during the month of October. This year, Indigenous Peoples' Day falls on Oct. 11, the day also nationally recognized as Columbus Day – which has been viewed as controversial across the country in recent years.

Christopher Columbus has been seen by Indigenous peoples as a colonizer, rather than a foreign founder of America, whose European intrusion in 1492 was responsible for the loss of life, destruction of land and disruption of tradition that was practiced by Native Americans for tens of thousands of years prior to his arrival.

Engraving of Christopher Columbus Upon Reaching the New World by D. K. Bonatti
Engraving of Christopher Columbus Upon Reaching the New World by D. K. Bonatti

Historical Picture Archive/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Christopher Columbus coming to the Americas

The Smithsonian recorded an estimation that "in the 130 years following first contact, Native America lost 95 percent of its population." Immediately after the explorers-turned-settlers entered the Western Hemisphere, the Indigenous peoples experienced slavery and had their resources infringed upon.

For more on Indigenous Peoples' Day and other top stories, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

On Oct. 8, 2021, Joe Biden made history as the first president to issue a presidential proclamation acknowledging Indigenous Peoples' Day. The statement served as a significant boost to refocus the federal holiday from acknowledging Columbus toward celebrating native peoples instead.

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Members of a Native-American dance group from Tesuque Pueblo in New Mexico perform in the historic Plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as part of the city's Indigenous Peoples Day program
Members of a Native-American dance group from Tesuque Pueblo in New Mexico perform in the historic Plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as part of the city's Indigenous Peoples Day program

Robert Alexander/Getty

"Today, we also acknowledge the painful history of wrongs and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities," Biden wrote. "It is a measure of our greatness as a nation that we do not seek to bury these shameful episodes of our past — that we face them honestly, we bring them to the light, and we do all we can to address them."

Along with President Biden, Secretary Deb Haaland also made history when she became the first Native American to serve as cabinet secretary. Member of the Pueblo of Laguna and a 35th generation New Mexican, Secretary Haaland works in consultation with the White House and Congress. She's the 54th Secretary of Interior who strives to preserve our public lands for future generations.

The U.S. Department of the Interior "plays a central role in how the United States stewards its public lands, increases environmental protections, pursues environmental justice, and honors our nation-to-nation relationship with Tribes."

In recent years, some cities and states in the U.S. have made official decisions to celebrate Indigenous Day instead of Columbus Day. In 2019, states like Vermont, New Mexico and Maine passed legislation renaming the holiday completely. That same year, Washington, D.C. joined the movement and switched the holiday's name.

RELATED: Here's Everything You Need to Know About National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11

Women drummers sing as they lead a march during an Indigenous Peoples Day event, in Seattle. In 2014, the Seattle City Council voted to stop recognizing Columbus Day and instead turned the second Monday in October into a day of recognition of Native American cultures and peoples Indigenous Peoples Day, Seattle, USA - 09 Oct 2017
Women drummers sing as they lead a march during an Indigenous Peoples Day event, in Seattle. In 2014, the Seattle City Council voted to stop recognizing Columbus Day and instead turned the second Monday in October into a day of recognition of Native American cultures and peoples Indigenous Peoples Day, Seattle, USA - 09 Oct 2017

AP/Shutterstock

South Dakota was the first state to recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day as "Native Americans' Day" in the 1990s. South Dakota has the third-largest population of Native Americans in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to the Smithsonian's blog, more than one dozen states (plus the nation's capital) today observe Indigenous Peoples' Day, including Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

This year, the 125th Boston Marathon fell on Indigenous Peoples' Day, which was both a win for activists who wanted the race to occur on Oct. 11, and a loss for others who preferred a different date.

The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) made the decision to hold the marathon on this day (which annually takes place in April, but was postponed this year due to COVID) and acknowledged that 26.2 mile route runs through the homelands of the Indigenous people, prior to the start of the race.

The B.A.A. also agreed to donate $20,000 to the Indigenous Peoples' Day Newton Committee to host their first-ever Indigenous Peoples' Day celebratory event. Newton is one of the communities the route passes through.

Although not everyone is opting to replace the Italian explorer's holiday completely, a number of U.S. cities, states and school districts have decided to recognize both Columbus and the Indigenous simultaneously.

Drummers let out a yell as they finish a song during an Indigenous Peoples Day gathering before a march, in Seattle. In 2014, the Seattle City Council voted to stop recognizing Columbus Day and instead turned the second Monday in October into a day of recognition of Native American cultures and peoples Columbus Day Quarrel, Seattle, USA - 09 Oct 2017
Drummers let out a yell as they finish a song during an Indigenous Peoples Day gathering before a march, in Seattle. In 2014, the Seattle City Council voted to stop recognizing Columbus Day and instead turned the second Monday in October into a day of recognition of Native American cultures and peoples Columbus Day Quarrel, Seattle, USA - 09 Oct 2017

AP/Shutterstock

The earliest known Columbus Day celebration occurred on Oct. 12, 1792, in honor of the 300th anniversary of the explorer's arrival to America.

To learn more about Indigenous Peoples' Day and ways you can honor Native America, Renée Gokey, citizen of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma and teacher services coordinator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., has provided a list of ways you can celebrate.

Be sure to check out the different ways your city and state are celebrating this year, too.