Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Categories: General

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is observed the second Monday of October in the United States to celebrate the survival and contemporary experiences of Native peoples. It is important to note that this observance is recent. Historically and conventionally, this date has been recognized as Columbus day, and it continues to be observed as such by the Federal government and the majority of states, including Illinois. That being said, more than a dozen states and the District of Columbia officially recognize the day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The move to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and away from Columbus Day, acknowledges the colonial and violent history of Columbus’s presence in the US, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Native people and the forced assimilation of survivors. Moreover, Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes Native people as the first inhabitants of the Americas, including the land that became the United States of America. You can read more about the history of Indigenous Peoples’ Day here.

We in Chicago occupy the Native Lands of the traditional homelands of the people of the Council of Three Fires, the Ojibwe, Potowatomi, and Odawa, as well as the Menominee, Miami, and Ho Chunk Nations. This land was a Native site of trade, travel, gathering, and healing for more than a dozen other Native groups, and it is still home to over 100,000 group members in the state of Illinois. The history of the city of Chicago is intertwined with histories of native peoples, evident even in the city’s name, which is adopted from the Algonquin language. You can read more about the challenges and contributions of Native Americans in Chicago here.

The history of Native Americans is one of resilience through great pain and injustice, from broken treaties and loss of land and language in the past, to derogatory sports mascots and biased history taught in schools today. The history is also one of great strength and revitalization. It is a story built around values that have shaped Native cultures and American society: respect for family and elders, shared responsibility to care for the land, and an obligation to do right by the next generation. Across more than 1,000 tribal nations and in every profession and segment of society today, Native American peoples carry the cultural knowledge and wisdom that sustains Native nations and helps build a stronger future for all.

At YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, it is at the core of our mission to eliminate racism and empower women, as well as all individuals who have experienced marginalization. Central this work is rethinking history and identifying pathways forward to build a more inclusive and equitable world. In line with our mission, we are partnering with Indigenous communities in the Great Lakes region to enact a land acknowledgment statement for our organization, which will acknowledge that the land we work on belonged to Native peoples prior to being colonized. Going beyond words, our statement will also embody actionable commitments to being more inclusive of Indigenous peoples in our work across all service areas.