National Native American Day, celebrated on the second Monday of October each year, honors the traditions and accomplishments of the various Native American tribes. This year, it takes place on October 9. While it is not observed in all 50 states, it is observed in South Dakota, celebrated on different dates in California, Nevada, Tennessee, and Washington, and is gaining popularity in the rest of the country. Traditional dances, art exhibits, and ceremonies are part of the celebration. The celebration focuses on the culture, traditions, and history of tribes across the country. Each distinct nation has its own set of customs, rituals, and beliefs.
History of National Native American Day
National Native American Day, as the name suggests, honors Native Americans. They are supposed to be the first Americans to settle and dwell in America. Before the first European explorers and settlers arrived, North Americans had occupied the whole North American continent. Native Americans have played a significant role in the history of the United States, so it is only fitting that there is a day set aside to celebrate them! However, while many see Native Americans as a long-forgotten legacy, Native Americans have deep cultural and historical roots that have been cultivated for thousands of years.
Native Americans are located everywhere, from the Inuit tribes of Alaska to the Seneca Nations of the Northeast, the Cherokees of the South, and the Navajo of the Southwest, with diverse cultural traditions and hundreds of varieties in their languages. By the time Europeans arrived in America in the 15th century, there were approximately 50 million Native Americans spread over the continent. Thus, Native American Day celebrates the vast heritage of culture and customs that Native Americans have retained throughout history.
National Native American Day was first seen as a holiday in 1998, and South Dakota announced 1990 to be a year of reconciliation between Native Americans and Caucasian populations, subsequently converting the former Columbus Day to Native American Day. People observe this event by learning about the many tribes and civilizations who persevered against all obstacles during what many Native Americans regard to be their genocide.
National Native American Day timeline
Archaeologists believe Native Americans arrived in America from Asia about 12,000 B.C.
Dr. Arthur C. Parker of the Seneca Nation begins his fight to have an "American Indian Day" recognized by the Boy Scouts of America.
Native Americans are finally awarded citizenship in their ancestral nation as Congress passes the Indian Citizenship Act.
National Native American Day becomes a state holiday in 1998, and South Dakota declares 1990 to be the year of reconciliation between Native Americans and Caucasian people.
National Native American Day FAQs
Is National Native American Day a federal holiday?
No. As National Native American Day is still only recognized by a few states, it is not a federal holiday.
What is important in Native American culture?
American Indian culture prioritizes peace with nature, perseverance in the face of adversity, respect and non-interference with others, as well as a strong conviction that man is innately good and should be respected for his choices.
Is it Columbus Day or Native American Day?
National Native American Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day developed as an alternative to Columbus Day, which Native Americans objected to since it honored a man who facilitated their colonialism and forced assimilation. As a result, the title “Columbus Day” is no longer used but rather “National Native American Day.”
How to Observe National Native American Day
Find out more about National Native American Day
Learn more about the tribes in your region to celebrate Native American customs. Respect their customs and take the time to learn about National Native American Day's history.
Go to a museum
Most museums in the United States contain a large collection of Native American items. Visit a museum to learn about Native American arts and culture throughout the centuries.
Cook as if you were a real Native American
Make a Native American-inspired dinner. Three Sisters Soup, Pemmican, or a basic Buffalo Stew are good options. Native American cuisine is known for being delectable, so try some of their sumptuous delicacies.
5 Facts About Native Americans
Started in early 1900
The Red Fox James, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, rode his horse from state to state, gaining the support of 24 state governments to establish a day to celebrate American Indians.
The Native American relocation
The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forcibly transfers Native people from Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee to "Indian territory" in what is now Oklahoma.
The Americas were not discovered by Columbus
There were already around 50 million Native Americans and Indigenous peoples in the Americas before Europe "found" them.
Native populations are increasing
In 2020, 9.7 million Americans were classified as Native American or Alaska Native, an 86.5% increase from the 2010 census.
Cherokee is the most populous tribal grouping
Cherokee, Navajo, and Latin American Indian tribes are the three largest Native American tribal groups.
Why National Native American Day is Important
It pays homage to the community
It is a day to respect and appreciate the contributions of indigenous peoples to the United States. An official holiday educates people on how to properly accomplish this.
It serves as a great reminder
Native American history is tainted by injustice and brutality, despite its richness and length. The day honors the people's fortitude as well as the hardships they have had to endure.
We learn and educate others
We learn and are impressed by how tribal residents have collaborated to overcome these obstacles, and we hear these stories directly from the Natives. It's the ideal opportunity to educate the public about the particular issues that Native people have faced in the past and now.
National Native American Day dates