Indigenous Peoples Day 2023 is on Monday, October 9 in the U.S. Is your team ready?
According to the United Nations, there are more than 476 million Indigenous peoples living in 90 countries all over the world. In fact, Indigenous people comprise 6.2% of the world’s population.
Read on for more information about these ideas, and other activities!
- Acknowledge the land you’re on
- Rebuild local ecosystems with native plants
- Support Indigenous businesses, authors, and craftspeople
- Visit a museum that shares about Indigenous history and culture
- Share in the art of storytelling
In this post, you’ll find:
- The history of Indigenous Peoples Day
- Why more businesses and local governments are honoring Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day
- Respectful ways to honor Indigenous Peoples Day at work
- Indigenous Peoples Day 2023 activities for remote teams
- Things to avoid on Indigenous Peoples Day (and year-round!)
What is Indigenous Peoples Day?
Indigenous Peoples Day in the U.S. is a time to honor and celebrate Native American peoples. Therefore, many people use the day as an opportunity to lift up and celebrate Native American culture, history, and teachings. At the same time, this can be a somber day to learn about and reflect on the atrocities that colonialists have perpetrated against Indigenous communities throughout history. Many of these inequities continue today.
Across the United States, many local governments, schools, and businesses are choosing to observe Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day. In fact, 17 states, the District of Columbia, and more than 130 cities celebrate the holiday. While Indigenous Peoples Day is not yet a national holiday, there is a growing movement to declare it a federal holiday in the United States.
The idea for Indigenous Peoples Day was sparked at a United Nations conference in the late 1970s. South Dakota became the first state to officially recognize the day in 1989.
When is Indigenous Peoples Day 2023?
In the United States, Indigenous People’s Day is observed by many on the second Monday in October. In 2023, Indigenous People’s Day is Monday, October 9.
Indigenous Peoples Day Around the World:
- Canada: National Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21
- Taiwan: Indigenous Peoples’ Day, August 1
- Australia: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, August 4
- Philippines: Indigenous Peoples’ Day, October 29
- International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, August 9
U.S. Holidays to Keep in Mind:
- Native American Heritage Day, Friday immediately following the 4th Thursday in November
- Native American Indian Heritage Month: November
- Tennessee: American Indian Day, 4th Monday of September
- California & Nevada, Native American Day, 22nd Friday of September
- South Dakota & Wisconsin, Native American Day, 2nd Monday of October
What about Columbus Day?
Indigenous People’s Day started as a movement in protest of Columbus Day, the federal holiday that honors Christopher Columbus. That is to say, many people now recognize the controversy and bloodshed that surround Columbus’s legacy. Others still observe Columbus Day and feel we should celebrate Columbus as an explorer, and as part of celebrating Italian American heritage.
Columbus is often credited with “discovering” the Americas. However, this claim ignores the fact that Indigenous peoples had populated the Americas for more than 20,000 years. Additionally, when it comes to European explorers, Leif Eriksson of Greenland is generally regarded as the first European to sail to the Americas. His voyage took place nearly 400 years before Columbus landed in what is now the Bahamas on October 12, 1492.
Furthermore, Columbus never actually set foot in North America. Instead, his travels included the Caribbean islands, as well as South and Central America.
Columbus is now associated with a violent, brutal chapter of history due to the harm he and his crew inflicted on many Indigenous peoples. Eventually, Columbus was arrested and lost favor with the Spanish monarchy. Many people view his voyages as the start of the colonization of the Americas.
This fall, consider skipping Columbus Day 2023 and beginning a new workplace tradition of observing Indigenous Peoples Day.
Workplace Ideas & Activities for Indigenous Peoples Day
1. Acknowledge the Land You’re On
Did you know you can search your corporate address to see which Indigenous lands you’re on? For example, Unexpected Virtual Tours is located on the traditional territory of the Muscogee/Creek Nation.
To honor Indigenous Peoples Day this year, ask each of your remote team members to research the history of the land they’re on. For instance, you can search your individual locations, or everyone can research the land of your corporate headquarters.
Research the culture and history of the tribe whose land you’re on. Then, share your findings and reflections during a group video call.
To get started, learn what native land you’re on by visiting native-land.ca.
2. Enjoy Being a Steward of Your Local Land
Along with acknowledging the land you are on, enjoy the land as well! Honor Indigenous Peoples Day this year by spending time connecting with nature and building a respectful relationship with the natural world around you.
More than we realize, we are dependent upon the land we live on. Take the day to explore your local ecosystem. Enjoy a trail hike in a state park. Or paddle down a nearby river or lake via kayak.
Furthermore, be sure that your activities are using natural resources responsibly. For example, if you have a picnic in a park, be sure to leave no waste behind. By being a good steward of the land, we can further the health of our ecosystems for future generations to enjoy.
Recognizing and respecting our symbiotic relationship with the land we live on is pivotal. Honor Indigenous cultures by learning more about the land you inhabit and enjoy being a steward of it at the same time.
3. Share About Indigenous Peoples Day
Use your company’s reach and influence to teach others about Indigenous Peoples Day. You could add a blurb about the holiday to your internal employee e-newsletter.
Take it a step further and post about Indigenous Peoples Day on your company’s social media accounts. Additionally, you can use the day to amplify the voices of Native American thought leaders. Consider also diversifying your social media feed by “following” Indigenous-led social media accounts.
4. Rebuild Local Ecosystems with Native Plants
Modern agriculture tends to work against the land instead of with it. As a result, we can harm our natural environment without even realizing it.
Take a cue from Native American gardening techniques. Many Native American tribes were farming in organic, sustainable ways for thousands of years before it was trendy.
To participate in this activity, organize a volunteer project with your team and plant local, native plants that are unique to your environment. You can do this in partnership with a local nonprofit – or even in your own backyard!
Explore The Old Farmer’s Almanac guide to Native American gardening techniques.
5. Share & Read Books by Indigenous Peoples
Too often, the history of Indigenous peoples is not only left untold – but it’s excluded, twisted, or diminished on purpose. However, reading a book by an Indigenous author is a great way to “flip the script.” Consider hosting a virtual book club for your team to dig into a meaningful story together.
Whether you choose a historical nonfiction read or a fictional novel, we can all benefit from diversifying our reading lists.
Some historical reads to consider:
- “A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies” by Bartolomé de las Casas
- “1491: New Revelations Of The Americas Before Columbus” by Charles C. Mann
- “An Indigenous People’s History Of The United States” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
- “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown
6. Purchase from Indigenous Businesses
Consider Indigenous businesses this month when purchasing items for yourself or your team.
You can find an Indigenous business for many items – from jewelry, clothing, and body care products to Native American home décor, cookbooks, and artwork.
7. Donate to a Cause
This Indigenous Peoples Day, put your money where your mouth is and support a cause that helps Indigenous people. For example, you could donate a portion of your proceeds. Or, you could match employees’ contributions to an approved nonprofit.
A few causes to consider this Indigenous Peoples Day:
- American Indian College Fund. Help support Native students and tribal college education.
- Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women. This organization aims to end violence against Indigenous women in the United States. Indigenous women are 2.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than their non-Indigenous counterparts.
- Seeding Sovereignty. This Indigenous-led collective works to radicalize and disrupt colonized spaces through land, body, and food sovereignty work, community building, and cultural preservation.
Find additional Native American organizations to support.
8. Create a Slack Channel for Deeper Discussion
If your team uses a chat app like Slack or Teams, create a channel to explore Indigenous Peoples Day further. During the day, you can ask each person to research and share a few sentences about a different topic related to the holiday. For example:
- How has Native American cooking influenced American food?
- Who is a Native American person throughout history you admire, and why?
- Share 3 facts about the Indigenous peoples whose land you’re currently on.
9. Help Enact Meaningful Change
So, you’ve decided to skip Columbus Day 2023 and commemorate Indigenous Peoples Day instead. After learning more about these holidays, you might feel moved to do more.
If so, join the Zinn Education Project and their initiative to “Abolish Columbus Day.” You can find resources including social media graphics, website banners, and more to help share the message.
Learn more about the Abolish Columbus Day initiative.
10. Take a Class to Learn Traditional Skills
Explore Indigenous art and culture through the Redhawk Native American Arts Council. Their virtual classes are tailored for your business’s unique needs and goals.
Virtual workshops offered include:
- Online Native Arts classes
- Social justice & activism from an Indigenous perspective
- Native American dancing & pow wow history
- Cultural sensitivity training
11. Visit a Museum Sharing Indigenous History
Visiting a museum is a great way to honor people of our past and present. Take a step to further your knowledge by visiting a museum that authentically highlights Indigenous cultures.
Many museums across the country offer exhibits focusing on Indigenous ways of life. Learn more about the history, art, and perspectives of local tribes. Or, access museums and cultural sites virtually.
Together, your team can traverse exhibitions and virtual walking tours to learn about Native cultures near and far.
Museums with Indigenous exhibits sharing about each area’s local tribes:
- National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC & New York City, NY
- Burke Museum in Seattle, WA
- The Journey Museum and Learning Center in Rapid City, SD
- Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ
- Museum of Native American History in Bentonville, AR
12. Attend a Local Festival
Attending locally led festivals and events is a great way to connect with and learn about different communities. This Indigenous Peoples Day, partake in appreciation of Indigenous culture by attending a community celebration led by your area’s local tribes.
Community festivals often highlight all corners of a culture’s vibrance. From booths showcasing traditional art forms and trades, to live music, films, and cuisine! Festivals are a hub of all interests. As a result, each of your team members is sure to find something to enjoy.
Consider researching local events happening in your area that you can promote amongst your team. Furthermore, schedule time as a team to share experiences following an event. By making time to reflect with one another, the joy of the event is sure to last!
Furthermore, your team can take your involvement a step further by sponsoring a local celebration. Making a donation will help to support the future of your local Indigenous community creating a lasting impact.
13. Share in the Art of Storytelling
A good story can bring any group together. And the art of storytelling allows you to traverse through worlds, traditions, and more!
Indigenous stories share the deep and rich history of our natural world. This verbal heritage speaks to origin stories, our ways of being, and generations of lineages. Invite a local Indigenous storyteller to share this heritage and art form with your team.
Storytelling is a fun, out-of-the-box way to immerse your team in learning Indigenous narratives and culture. Plus, this is a great way to support local artists and connect with your local Indigenous community.
Furthermore, offer Indigenous snacks and food for your team to enjoy during the event. This will keep your team going, and may even connect to a story or two.
14. Work with Indigenous-Owned Companies
Another way to honor Indigenous Peoples Day is to incorporate working with Indigenous-owned suppliers or vendors.
As a team, evaluate what companies you regularly do business with throughout your work. Then, determine how you may expand your list to incorporate businesses with Indigenous representation.
On a large scale, consider funneling your business to Indigenous-led companies throughout your entire supply chain. Or, look to hire Indigenous teams for expansion projects or ongoing repairs.
On a smaller scale, you can make quick switches to support Indigenous businesses. For instance, purchase the coffee and snacks you provide for employees from an Indigenous brand. Or, source your office supplies and art from Indigenous artists.
Working with Indigenous vendors is a great long-term way to support the economic development of Indigenous communities. By making a financial commitment to supporting your local Indigenous businesses on an ongoing basis, your team can create a lasting impact.
15. Listen and Learn via Podcast
Podcasts are a great way to learn something new. And, they’re also a great way to hear voices and stories directly from specific communities. Honor Indigenous Peoples Day by listening to an Indigenous-led podcast as a team. This works great for all teams, as you can listen anytime, anywhere.
For this activity, send out a list of Indigenous-led podcasts in a team email or chat thread. Or, engage your team by taking suggestions of series that may already be a group favorite.
Take a vote and set a date for each team member to finish the episode. Then, share your reflections as a team during a group video call. Plus, you don’t have to stop at one episode. Continue listening together through a whole series if there’s interest!
You can find many Indigenous-led podcasts on streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music.
A few Indigenous-led podcasts to get your list started:
- All My Relations. Hosted by Matika Wilbur, from the Swinomish and Tulalip peoples of coastal Washington, and Adrienne Keene, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, the two explore what it means to be a modern Native individual.
- The Red Nation Podcast. The series focuses on a range of Indigenous topics from history to politics, and culture.
- Toasted Sister Podcast. This podcast follows the culinary journey of Andi Murphy, a Navajo journalist, as she finds her roots and makes waves in the Native American Food Movement.
- Coffee With My Ma. This series documents the passing of stories between host Kaniehtiio Horn and her mother, activist Kahentinetha Horn, who shares stories of her very long adventurous life with humor and wisdom.
16. Make Indigenous Peoples Day a Company Holiday
Did you know that only 10 states officially celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day? There is a growing movement to make instating official holidays and proclamations to honor Indigenous Peoples a reality in more cities and states.
Your team can join this movement! Regardless of your state or city’s choice, consider making Indigenous Peoples Day a company holiday if it’s not one already. Or, allow employees optional PTO to use for the day.
Encourage team members to use the time to further learn about Indigenous culture. We suggest sharing the ideas listed throughout this post with your team. A simple guide can help engage employees in educational ways to spend their time.
Additionally, be sure to schedule a team meeting in the following days to chat about how everyone celebrated. In reflecting together, your team will grow stronger connections and carry the importance of Indigenous Peoples Day forward.
17. Watch an Indigenous Film or Documentary
Watching movies is a pastime that brings people together and has the power to show ways of life like no other. Celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day by watching a film or documentary featuring Indigenous cultures.
Choose from movies made by Indigenous filmmakers and crews. Or, a film authentically centering Indigenous culture and life.
For this activity, poll your team to decide what you’ll watch. With options from dramas, documentaries, sci-fi, and comedies, your team is bound to find an option everyone will enjoy.
To watch, join together virtually with video sync apps like Scener. For maximum impact, follow the movie with a group discussion.
A few Indigenous film suggestions to start your pick list:
- Smoke Signals (1998)
- Awake: A Dream From Standing Rock (2017)
- Wildhood (2021)
- The Northlander (2016)
- Indian Horse (2017)
- We Still Live Here: Âs Nutayuneân (2010)
- Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001)
- Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World (2017)
18. Get Creative with Digital Assets
Get creative with your team in the weeks leading up to Indigenous Peoples Day by making digital assets together.
Digital assets can include emojis to use in the team chat, special email signatures, backgrounds to use in video calls, frames to add to online profiles, and more! Designs may feature specific colors and patterns, flags, or figures from history.
For this activity, task your team to each take on creating one asset. Team members should take time to research messages or ideas to be included in the design. Make sure to avoid appropriation or use of sacred imagery in any assets.
Then, share what’s been made with all employees to use in meetings and messages to bring awareness to Indigenous Peoples Day. Consider joining a video call together to discuss the significant themes and imagery that were chosen in each design.
This creative project is great for any size team and a creative way to learn more about Indigenous cultures with collective engagement.
Tips to Honor Indigenous Peoples Day Respectfully
Be sure you’re creating an environment of diversity, equity, and inclusion by avoiding potentially harmful stereotypes and behaviors. After all, the point of celebrating this holiday is to uplift and honor Native peoples, their history, and their culture.
Here are a few things to avoid on Indigenous Peoples Day 2023 (and year-round):
- Avoid wearing a stereotypical garment (i.e. headdress, fringe, face paint, feathers). These items can have a spiritual (and sometimes sacred) significance. For example, in the Oglala Lakota Nation, the headdress is only worn by revered elders who have demonstrated their selflessness and leadership throughout their lives. As a result, wearing these items as costume is disrespectful to sacred traditions.
- Refrain from using expressions like “sitting Indian style” or “spirit animal.” Other words to avoid using out of context include “Chief” (when speaking about a boss), “tribe” (to refer to a group of friends or colleagues), and “Powwow,” (when referring to a casual group meeting). These words carry special, sometimes sacred meaning and should be used respectfully in context.
- Don’t purchase Native American inspired products or costumes (think: dream catchers, beaded jewelry with Native American patterns) from big box retailers. Instead, seek out these products from Indigenous creators and business owners.
- Another faux pas: celebrating the fun parts of this holiday without respecting and honoring its somber history. Remember, for many people, Indigenous Peoples Day is a time for reflection and remembrance.
Find more diversity, equity, and inclusion team building activities for remote teams. Explore our live, interactive virtual team building experiences.