‘What Does Indigenous Peoples’ Day Mean to You?’ – 11 Indigenous Voices from NDN Collective Respond

On the second Monday of October, people all across the so-called United States celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day (IPD).  This year, IPD falls on October 10.

IPD  signifies many things to Indigenous people, including the celebration of victories all across Indigenous lands to abolish Columbus Day– a day that many states and municipalities have still yet to eliminate– replacing it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  This day is also significant to us at NDN Collective, as we recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day as the day we publicly launched in 2018.

In recognition of this day and all of the meaning that it holds, we lift up 11 different voices from across NDN Collective, as they reflect on what Indigenous Peoples’ Day means to them:

Kami-Rae James, Hopi

Program Officer

Indigenous Peoples’ Day acknowledges our continued resilience, honors our ancestors and their sacrifices, and celebrates our culture and traditional lifeways. It’s also a strong reminder that we still exist and will continue to rise.

Teresa Peterson, Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota

Program Manager

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is necessary because of the invisibility and erasure of this land’s people, relationships and connections. I am– we are– Indigenous everyday. We are valuable and worthy. So, on this day we shout out in celebration, ‘We are still here!’

Miguel Douglas, Puyallup

Federal Grant Writer

Indigenous Peoples’ Day to me is an important reminder that we are all survivors. Many of our ancestors fought for us to be here, surviving against immense injustices to allow us to carry on our cultures, traditions, and ways of life. We are still here, carrying the power of our ancestors with us.

Steph Viera, Diné

Social Media Manager

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day means acknowledging the strides of our communities in the movement whose efforts visibilize our past, present and future existence. It means everything to share space with my Indigenous kin and share our experiences, cultural knowledge and laughter with one another.

Sarah Manning, Newe’ & Numa / Shoshone-Paiute

Director of Communications

That Indigenous Peoples’ Day even exists is a testament to the generations of Indigenous resistance to not just columbus day, but to colonialism overall.

This day would not be possible without the the collective efforts of those who came before us– those who resisted courageously– from our Grandmas and Grandpas who maintained our languages and teachings, to the organizers and resistors of the Red Power movement of the 60s and 70s who decried columbus day long before many of us were even born. This day is about resistance, and the continuity and love of our people.

PennElys Droz, Anishinaabe

Program Officer

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a time of reflection, remembering the power of our organizing and resistance, and also celebration of the strong new futures young Indigenous people are creating on the foundations built by ancestors and elders.

Tina Kuckkahn, Anishinaabe

Director of Grantmaking

While the origin story of Indigenous Peoples’ Day began as something we were against (Unnamed Colonizer Day), it has evolved into something that we are FOR- Indigenous self-determination as expressed through all of our beautiful lifeways, language, culture, and ceremonies.

Andrew Catt-Iron Shell, Eastern Band Cherokee

NDN Action Organizer

I am what the echo from the eons sounds like: ‘I am still here. I ain’t going nowhere.’ Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Brandy Calabaza, Jicarilla Apache/Kewa Pueblo

Communications Associate

For far too long Indigenous Peoples have been minimized and subjected to acts of genocide that have tried to eliminate us from existence. On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we stand together as a statement that we are still here.

We extend gratitude to those who paved the way, movement leaders and grassroots organizers who stood up in defense of our communities. We hold space for the ancestors and relatives whose sacrifices ensured our survival today. And we celebrate our existence as warriors who are dismantling the colonial system, one holiday at a time. It is our day to acknowledge our history, our struggle, and our victories. To all the great strides that have been made in defense of who we are as a community.

Nick Tilsen, Oglala Lakota

President & CEO

Indigenous Peoples’ Day has been a day that we have reclaimed and took back from the colonizers. They tried to kill us, assimilate us, imprison us, steal our land and erase us. Today is a reminder that their efforts were unsuccessful.

We are warriors, builders, protectors and innovators. We will continue to fight for our liberation, by tearing down Columbus statues, changing the name of this day and fighting for the return of Indigenous lands back into Indigenous hands. LandBack is the path forward for our people, our lands, and our future. Indigenous artists will sing songs of freedom and paint murals of the future we are fighting for.

Kellian Staggers, Diné

Advancement Coordinator

We are Indigenous 24/7, 365, and that never stops. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is when we can collectively celebrate our ongoing resilience, while also promoting our own visibility. It creates a space that we fill with declarations of our continued existence, and it serves as a reminder to the world that we will continue to thrive.

Wherever you are on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, remember that this is a day of victory just as much as it is a day of continuing to fight for the elimination of Columbus Day, for decolonization, and the reclamation of Indigenous self-determination on Indigenous lands.

From all of us at NDN Collective, Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day! 

Watch NDN Collective’s ‘We are Unapologetically Indigenous’ Video in Honor of Indigenous Peoples Day

Check out these additional IPD Resources:

Illuminative | Advocates Guide to Support Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Map | Abolish Columbus Day

Zinn Education Project | Indigenous Peoples Day Resources