Mitchell Museum
of the American Indian

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Evanston, IL 60201

Indigenous Peoples Day Resource Guide:

Indigenous Peoples Day celebrates and recognizes recognizes the original inhabitants of the Americas, their contributions, sacrifices, and the price that was paid for the creation of the United States, Canada, and the Nations of Central and South America. It honors the survival, the adaptations, and the innovations of Native peoples Identity, Presence, and Cultures; Past, Present, Future.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an international movement that began in 1977. A delegation of Native, nations from different parts of the Americas, to the United Nations-sponsored International Conference on Discrimination against Indigenous Populations in the Americas, held in Geneva, Switzerland, suggested that Columbus Day should be replaced by an Indigenous Peoples which passed that resolution. In July 1990, representatives from 120 Indian nations from across the Americas met in Quito, Ecuador in the First Continental Conference (Encuentro) on 500 Years of Indian Resistance. This was in preparation for the 500th anniversary of Native resistance to the European invasion of the Americas (1492-1992). The conference unanimously passed a resolution to transform Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day in 1992. The purpose of the day was to talk and teach about the historical truths of Columbus' voyage and the subsequent genocide, political upheavals, and environmental destruction, to organize against its continuation today, and to celebrate Indigenous resistance.

Berkeley, California became the first city in the United States to adopt Indigenous Peoples Day in 1992. Since then it has been celebrated on the second Monday of October in other major cities including Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, Anchorage, Alaska, Portland, Oregon, San Fernando, California, Durango, Colorado, Asheville, North Carolina, Seattle, Washington, and Lawrence, Kansas. Major universities including Brown University, Cornell University, Tufts University, and the University of Oklahoma, among others, have also adopted the holiday.

Indigenous Peoples' Day Articles

The following articles provide information on the origins of Indigenous Peoples Day and the various perspectives of the day, replacing Columbus Day, and how cities celebrate the day. These articles are good starting points for a classroom discussion. Have students think about how Indigenous Peoples' Day affects Native and non-Native communities, individuals, and tribal nations.

Berkeley Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration

Indigenous Peoples Day celebrated alongside Columbus Day in US.

International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

Columbus Day, or ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day’?

Indigenous Peoples' Day will replace Columbus Day on Evanston's calendar

Why These Cities Are Dropping ‘Columbus Day’ For ‘Indigenous People’s Day’

Backlash over Indigenous People's Day prompts vote for Italian Heritage Day


Educational Resources

The following are curriculum units that focus on alternative ways to teach about Columbus Day and incorporating Indigenous perspectives into U.S., Canadian, and Latin American history curriculum. The curriculums follow the mission of Indigenous Peoples Day and allows teachers to transform the often basic teaching of Columbus into a more comprehensive curriculum that can cover various subjects including history, social studies, geography, religious studies, and U.S. law and policy


Rethinking Columbus: A Thematic Guide.”
This curriculum was created by the University of New Mexico Latin American & Iberian Institute as the first of a series of workshops on or related to exploration and the conquistadores, cultural exchange, European and Indigenous encounters, and food. This specific curriculum focuses on discussing matters relevant to teaching about Columbus, rethinking how we present Columbus to our students, and providing teaching resources and lesson plans on Christopher Columbus. The curriculum provides resources and information that encourage teachers to rethink the traditional or standard story/history of Columbus, and the ramifications that Columbus’ explorations had on the Americas.

The People vs. Columbus, et al.
Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. 8 pages.
Role play in the form of a trial to determine who is responsible for the death of millions of Taínos on the island of Hispaniola in the late 15th century. The lesson begins as follows:

  1. In preparation for class, list the names of all the “defendants” on the board: Columbus, Columbus’ men, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the Taínos, and the System of Empire.
  2. Tell students that each of these defendants is charged with murder — the murder of the Taíno Indians in the years following 1492. Tell them that, in groups, students will portray the defendants and that you, the teacher, will be the prosecutor. Explain that students’ responsibility will be twofold: a) to defend themselves against the charges, and b) to explain who they think is guilty and why.


“The Indians’ Discovery of Columbus.” By Christine Elmore. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. Contents of Curriculum Unit 92.02.01, 2016
The purpose of this curriculum unit is to present the conquest of Mexico and the event leading to the downfall of the Aztec Empire, not from a European standpoint but from the perspective of the Aztecs themselves.


“What Was Columbus Thinking?” National Endowment for the Humanities.
“Most students recognize the name Christopher Columbus. They may be aware that his voyages ushered in the first period of sustained contact between Europeans and the Americas and its people. They may not know, however, why Columbus traveled to the New World or what happened to the native people he encountered. In this lesson, students read excerpts from Columbus's letters and journals, as well as recent considerations of his achievements. Students reflect on the motivations behind Columbus's explorations, his reactions to what he found and the consequences, intended and unintended, of his endeavor.


A People's History Of The United States

by Howard Zinn. Presented by History Is A Weapon.

This site has a free, online version of Howard Zinn's book A People's History of the United States. This is a good resource for students, teachers, and administrators to gain a critical perspective of U.S. history that includes the stories and perspectives of many underrepresented peoples in the United States including Native Americans, women, and African Americans. Zinn provides a more critical look at Columbus and his voyage's impact on the colonization of the Americas.


Perspectives of Teaching a Diverse America

Perspectives for a Diverse America is a literacy-based curriculum that marries anti-bias social justice content with the rigor of the Common Core State Standards.This web-based curriculum tool provides tools for developing curriculum units that incorporate anti-bias learning plans that promote diverse perspectives of history, build critical thinking skills, and literacy. The texts encourage students to question common understandings, consider multiple viewpoints, analyze and critique power relationships, and act to change unfair and unequal conditions. This is a good resource for developing your own Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day curriculum.


The following books are great starting points to understanding Native American History, Colonialism in the Americas and its long term effects, and an understanding of why many Native Peoples across the United States and beyond feel strongly about Indigenous Peoples Day and are moving to make it a national celebration.

Note: all books below are available at

Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years.

by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson. 1998Image result for indigenous peoples day chicago

This revised edition offers an alternative narrative of the myth about the voyages of Christopher Columbus traditionally taught in schools. The hope is to encourage a deeper understanding of the European invasion's consequences, to honor the rich legacy of resistance to the injustices it created, to convey the appreciation for the diverse indigenous cultures of the hemisphere, and to reflect on what this all means for individuals today. The book features essays and interviews, poetry, analysis, and stories to present multiple perspectives on what the European exploration meant to the "New World." Following an introduction, the book is divided into nine chapters with essays, poems, newspaper articles, and a variety of materials for use in the classroom. The volume concludes with a resources section containing books for young readers and adults, curriculum materials, videos, websites, and organizations.


Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus: What Your History Books Got Wrong

by James W. Loewen, 2014

Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus disproves the myths about Columbus still enshrined in American textbooks with quotations from primary source material that sets the record straight. The poster and accompanying 48–page paperback book sum up the mistellings—and reveal the real story—in a graphically appealing and accessible format that shows the degree to which textbooks have “lied” by knowingly substituting crowd-pleasing myths for grim and gruesome historical evidence.


An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States (Book) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. 2015.
Four hundred years of Native American history from an Indigenous perspective. Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the U.S. empire


The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America

by Thomas King, 2013

In The Inconvenient Indian, Thomas King offers a deeply knowing, darkly funny, unabashedly opinionated, and utterly unconventional account of Indian–White relations in North America since initial contact. Ranging freely across the centuries and the Canada–U.S. border, King debunks fabricated stories of Indian savagery and White heroism, takes an oblique look at Indians (and cowboys) in film and popular culture, wrestles with the history of Native American resistance and his own experiences as a Native rights activist, and articulates a profound, revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands.

Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition

by Glen Sean Coulthard, 2014

In a work of critically engaged political theory, Glen Sean Coulthard challenges recognition as a method of organizing difference and identity in liberal politics, questioning the assumption that contemporary difference and past histories of destructive colonialism between the state and Indigenous peoples can be reconciled through a process of acknowledgment.


Why You Can't Teach United States History without American Indians

by Susan Sleeper-Smith (Editor), Juliana Barr (Editor), Jean M. O'Brien (Editor), Nancy Shoemaker (Editor), Scott Manning Stevens,

A resource for all who teach and study history, this book illuminates the unmistakable centrality of American Indian history to the full sweep of American history. The nineteen essays reflect the new directions in American history. More importantly, it demonstrates how Native American people, and questions of Native American sovereignty, have animated all the ways we consider the nation's past.

Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life

by David Treuer, 2013

With authoritative research and reportage, Treuer illuminates misunderstood contemporary issues like sovereignty, treaty rights, and natural-resource conservation. He traces the convoluted waves of public policy that have deracinated, disenfranchised, and exploited Native Americans, exposing the tension and conflict that has marked the historical relationship between the United States government and the Native American population.

Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands

by James F. Brooks, 2002

This book examines the origins and legacies of a flourishing captive exchange economy within and among native American and Euro-American communities throughout the Southwest Borderlands from the Spanish colonial era to the end of the nineteenth century. The slave trading system was an artifact of Spanish policies toward the Indigenous Peoples of New Spain, that began with Columbus and Cortez.

The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity

by Jill Lepore, 1999

King Philip's War, was one of the first racial wars in what would become the United States, happened in New England in 1675, was, in proportion to population, the bloodiest in American history. Lepore makes clear that it was after the war--and because of it--that the boundaries between cultures, hitherto blurred, turned into rigid ones. King Philip's War became one of the most written-about wars in our history, and Lepore argues that the words strengthened and hardened feelings that, in turn, strengthened and hardened the enmity between Indians and Anglos. She shows how, as late as the nineteenth century, memories of the war were instrumental in justifying Indian removals--and how in our own century that same war has inspired Indian attempts to preserve "Indianness" as fiercely as the early settlers once struggled to preserve their Englishness.


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