Pictured Mesa Verde National Park created by 6th-12th century Ancestral Puebloans

Things To Do To Honor Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Mandy Carr Oct 11, 2021

Indigenous Peoples' Day is a day to honor the history and culture of Native Americans. It actually began as a counter-celebration held on Columbus Day—a day that marks Italian explorer Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492. Honoring the Native Americans, this is a day to celebrate indigenous communities and to commemorate the oppression they experienced from European colonists like Columbus. 

Honor Indigenous Peoples' Day all year round, by learning about their history and culture, and supporting the causes important to the preservation of their traditions and heritage, and indeed their lands. Here are a few key resources to get you started…

Support Native American Causes

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) provides legal assistance to tribes, organizations, and individuals with inadequate representation. The NARF has represented Native American people in hundreds of significant cases to protect their rights. 

If you want to help one of your peers, you could donate to The American Indian College Fund. This non-profit provides support for attending higher education through scholarships.

Native Wellness Institute promotes well-being through programs and training for Native Americans to embrace their heritage. 

Reclaiming Native Truth project is dedicated to changing America’s misconceptions of Native Americans and helping indigenous people counter discrimination. Part of their mission included a research campaign to understand the narrative around Native people in America. Read the detailed report to see what was discovered in the research between 2016-2018. 

The Land Back campaign is working on getting Indigenous lands back into Indigenous hands. The campaign is part of the NDN Collective, an indigenous-led activist and advocacy organization. Their cornerstone battle is reclaiming the Black Hills in South Dakota. Their goal is to close Mount Rushmore and have the public lands returned to Indigenous people. The mountain is a symbol of white supremacy and colonization and is part of their sacred lands. 

The Water Protector Legal Collective was born out of the NoDAPL movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at Standing Rock. The Collective provides a legal team on the ground to resist the DAPL. The Collective also sees Indigenous people at the center of fighting climate change. Their work includes skill development and education to empower natives to fight against environmental destruction and racism. 

Honor the Earth are a non-profit, building awareness and giving financial support for environmental justice for Native Americans. The organization has created films, hosts events, and has resident musicians to raise awareness for their cause. 

Visit Heritage Sites

Visit the ancient cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloan People at Mesa Verde National Park.  It is one of the richest archeological zones in America, giving visitors an insight to how indigenous people lived and the community they fostered.  

Explore the remains of the Awatixa Xi'e Village in North Dakota on the Upper Missouri River at the Knife River Indian Village.

After reading the Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation, you might want to check out the trail for yourself. The National Historic Trail spans across Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. If you can’t make it out to see it in person, you can explore the interactive map

Henry Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota Chief, invited the Lakota Sioux warrior and sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to carve a memorial for Native Americans now known as Crazy Horse Memorial. He started work on this in 1948, and his ancestors have continued his vision. The aim is to create a statute that is 641 feet long and 563 feet high. The Mount Rushmore National Memorial heads are only 60 feet tall each. Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation finished the 87½-foot-tall Crazy Horse’s face in 1998. The next phase is the 219-foot-high horse’s head. The foundation continues the memorial’s construction and provides education through artifacts, arts and crafts at The Indian Museum of North America and The Native American Educational and Cultural Center.

Check out the National Park Service website to find historical Native American sites near you. 

Docuseries To Watch

Reservation Dogs on FX on Hulu is a comedy series that follows four Native American teenagers in rural Oklahoma. Watch their adventures as they try to make it to California by stealing and saving.   

If you want to see what life is like for Native American teens today, check out Basketball or Nothing on Netflix. This docuseries follows the Chinle High basketball team in Arizona's Navajo Nation’s state championship journey. 

A Reading List

Dig into An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz for a more complete picture. This book covers the complete history of the Native Americans, a history largely ignored by the U.S.—particularly in school curriculums. How, for centuries, Native Americans tried to resist the expansion of the U.S Empire and the violent loss of their lands.

Learn about Native American Myths through 160 tales from 80 tribal groups in American Indian Myths And Legends. The stories include tales of love, wars, heroes, animals, and more. 

Get a first-hand account of the story of the Sioux people with Luther Standing Bear, the son of a Lakota chief in My People the Sioux, By Luther Standing Bear. One of the first books about Native Americans written from the indigenous point of view, Luther Standing Bear lived an incredible life. He was one of the first students at Carlise Indian School. He witnessed the Ghost Dance uprising and toured Europe with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. He devoted his later years to the Native American rights movement of the 1920s and 1930s. 

Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve researched the women in her family to tell the untold stories of Sioux women in Sioux Women: Traditionally Sacred. These women were at the center of tribal life. They worked to keep traditions as outside culture pushed them to change their ways. This fascinating book tells the story of their journey into modern life. 

The Night Watchman: A Novel is based on Louise Erdrich’s grandfather. A night watchman at a jewelry plant near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota, in 1953, he was a Chippewa Council member trying to understand the “emancipation” bill headed to congress that would take away Native American rights to their lands. Based on historic events, Erdrich created this fictional story about her grandfather’s life and won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

For a more profound understanding of the Trails of Tears, check out the incredibly moving How I Became a Ghost, by Tim Tingle of the Choctaw Nation. In this historical fiction book, a young Choctaw member tells how he did not survive the Trail of Tears and became a ghost. 

Love reading? Here are six must-reads to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.