Monday, October 10 marks a day of recognition of Indigenous peoples’ resilience and rich cultural heritage in the face of centuries of oppression, assimilation and genocide.
Recognized on the second Monday in October – the same day as the federally recognized Columbus Day holiday – 2021 marked the first time a U.S. president officially proclaimed an Indigenous Peoples’ Day observance.
In recent years, observance of Columbus Day has become increasingly controversial. Critics of the holiday argue that recognizing European conquerors like Christopher Columbus, an Italian, whitewashes Native American history, teaches inaccurate narratives and glorifies violence against Indigenous communities.
Members of the UW community protested the Columbus Day holiday as early as 2007, calling the day a “tradition celebrating genocide” and demanding the holiday be fully replaced by Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The idea for this was first proposed by Indigenous peoples at a United Nations conference in 1977.
It wasn’t until 1989 that the first U.S. state, South Dakota, replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples day, officially celebrating it the following year.
Where is Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognized?
Not every state or city broadly recognizes this day in honor of Indigenous Peoples. More than a dozen states and well over 100 cities celebrate the day, with many of them having altogether dropped the holiday honoring Columbus to replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Since Washington state doesn’t recognize Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day doesn’t replace it, nor is Indigenous Peoples’ Day an official city holiday — just a day to honor Indigenous people.
Columbus Day remains a federal holiday that gives federal government employees the day off from work. And while problematic, it’s worth noting that the day originally became a holiday in 1937 as recognition for the mistreatment of Italian Americans.
Consider a monthly contribution to Real Rent Duwamish, which calls on people who live and work in Seattle to make rent payments to the Duwamish Tribe in solidarity with the First Peoples of this land. As a grassroots effort, this organization is not yet in the UW Combined Fund Drive.
Listen to Seattle’s KEXP 90.3 FM or online at KEXP.org on Indigenous Peoples’ Day for special on-air programming all day, and the “Thriving Peoples Thriving Places” installation opening in KEXP’s Gathering Space, with artwork featuring Indigenous women leaders who have made significant contributions to Indigenous rights and guardianship.
Consider making a one-time contribution or setting up payroll deduction to one of our CFD member organizations working with and for Indigenous communities in our region:
Duwamish Tribe (charity code 0337178): In 1983, after more than 100 years of broken United States treaty promises, the Dkhw’Duw’Absh established Duwamish Tribal Services as a non-profit 501[C]3 organization to provide social and cultural services to the Duwamish Tribal community.
Native American Rights Fund (charity code 0316272): Provides legal representation to Native American tribes, organizations, and individuals in cases of national significance involving tribal sovereignty, natural resources and human rights.
Red Eagle Soaring Native American Theatre Group (charity code 0315118): Founded in 1991 to produce and support traditional and contemporary Native American performing arts. Its highest priority purpose is to serve the youth of the Seattle/King County Native American/Alaskan Native Community.
American Indian Science and Engineering Society (charity code 1480408): Works to substantially increase American Indian/Alaska Native representation in science, technology, engineering, and math STEM as students, professionals, mentors, and leaders.
American Indian Youth Running Strong Inc (charity code 0524368): Assists American Indian families with food, water, basic relief and support services for needy families including programs fostering self-reliance.
Intellectual House (charity code 1481183): is a longhouse-style facility on the UW Seattle campus. It provides a multi-service learning and gathering space for American Indian and Alaska Native students, faculty and staff, as well as others from various cultures and communities to come together in a welcoming environment to share knowledge.
United Indians of All Tribes Foundation (charity code 0316536): We provide culturally appropriate social, educational, employment, and cultural services to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and others in need throughout the Puget Sound region, and host Native arts and cultural events open to the everyone.
The University of Washington Combined Fund Drive acknowledges that we live and work on the traditional territories of the Duwamish and Coast Salish peoples and that we occupy this land. While we recognize that this acknowledgement does not replace authentic relationships with Indigenous communities, we hope that it honors with gratitude the land and the original inhabitants. Explore additional UWCFD resources for Indigenous communities.