Teaching About Indigenous Peoples’ Day


Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrates Native Americans and recognizes the impact of colonialism in the Western World on natives. Though it has not yet become a federal holiday, several American cities and states celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of or in addition to Columbus Day. Because Columbus Day commemorates Columbus for “discovering” the New World when indigenous people were already living there and celebrates Columbus’s violent actions against natives, many Americans across the globe disapprove of honoring Columbus but rather believe in commemorating Native Americans. By teaching students about Indigenous Peoples’ Day, educators are giving them the opportunity to learn about Native American history and form their own opinions about whether or not this holiday should be celebrated instead of Columbus Day.


There are many different resources available online for teaching about Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the United States. The experience of Native Americans is often overlooked or glossed over in the classroom, but this is a chance for educators and students to pay homage to the natives of our country.

Lesson Plans

  1. Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2019: Teaching Tolerance provides a few different resources to help educators “celebrate the histories of Indigenous peoples and Native nations” for Indigenous Peoples’ Day. These resources include an article inviting contemporary American Indian peoples into the classroom, a lesson on why we still celebrate Columbus Day, and a text in which “an educator details the struggle of coming to terms with the bloody heritage she shares with Columbus and her pride in remembering, embracing and living out her cultural history.”
  2. Indigenous Peoples’ Day Resources: The Zinn Education Project offers a series of lessons, books, films, podcasts, and websites for teaching students about the history of Columbus and the natives who originally resided in North America. In addition, there is also a link to the Abolish Columbus Day packet that is available for educators to download and use in their classrooms to help students further understand why we shouldn’t be celebrating the crimes of Christopher Columbus but instead honor the indigenous peoples who suffered from his actions.
  3. Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day?: ADL has put together a high school lesson plan teaching students about Columbus Day and the reasons why some states and cities have renamed it Indigenous Peoples’ Day. From this plan, students will not only learn the necessary information about this topic, but they will also get the chance to form their own opinions on whether they believe Columbus Day should be changed to Indigenous Peoples’ Day on a federal level.


  1. Honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the Classroom: We Are Teachers provides an article on honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the classroom. This article recommends websites, books, and activities that educators should integrate into their curriculums in order to best celebrate and honor the experiences of indigenous peoples’. Additionally, the author gives educators a bit of advice on whether Columbus Day should still play a role in the classroom and reminds them that vocabulary matters when discussing indigenous peoples. Check it out!
  2. Indigenous Peoples’ Day – Rethinking How We Celebrate American History: The Smithsonian Magazine has published an article on rethinking how we celebrate American history, specifically how we teach Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The author discusses the movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day and provides a list of the states and smaller jurisdictions that have decided to observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day either in addition to or in place of Columbus Day. This article ultimately encourages educators to rethink how we teach students about Columbus in the classroom in honor of the natives.
  3. Why More People Are Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day: PBS offers an article explaining why more people are celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Included in this article is information on Columbus, the Americans who began to question why indigenous peoples didn’t have their own holiday, and the unexpected allies across the country who commemorate the experiences of American natives.

Informational Sites

  1. Everything You Need to Know About Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Time provides an article about Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The information in this article will help students grasp how this day is different from Columbus Day and why more cities are celebrating it. Segarra explains what Indigenous Peoples’ Day is, what cities have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, what Columbus Day is, when Columbus Day started, and why people want to replace Columbus Day.
  2. Indigenous Peoples’ Day: The Unofficial, Columbus-Free Celebration: The New York Times has published an article on the Indigenous Peoples’ Day, specifically the unofficial, Columbus-free celebration in New York City. This article not only includes an explanation of the celebration of indigenous people in NYC, but there are also several images of this day which will help students understand what this celebration means on a deeper level, especially to the natives of the United States.
  3. Columbus Day-Indigenous Peoples’ Day Fast Facts: CNN has put together some fast facts about Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Additionally, there is a timeline of the celebration of Columbus which will help students understand not only how this day became a federal holiday but also how long indigenous peoples went overlooked.


Teaching students about Indigenous Peoples’ Day may not be an easy task, but it is an extremely important one. In order to honor the experiences of indigenous people properly, we need to be informed about their history and culture, which is only possible if we bring this topic into the classroom. The resources above will help educators to teach students about Indigenous Peoples’ Day and its significance!

Additional Resources

  1. Indigenous Peoples’ Day | All About the Holidays: PBS offers a two-minute video on Indigenous Peoples’ Day which explains that International Day of the World’s Indigenous People is on August 9th and was created by the United Nations in 1994. The narrator explains other general information related to this day, including the fact that in the United States, some Americans celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of or in place of Columbus Day. This brief video may serve as a good introduction to this topic!
  2. Goodbye, Columbus. Hello, Indigenous Peoples’ Day: History.com provides an article discussing why Columbus Day should be replaced with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Overall, the consensus is that Columbus Day recognizes Columbus for “discovering” a land where indigenous people were already residing and celebrates his violent actions. Instead, indigenous people should be honored in order to acknowledge their shared experience while also bringing awareness to their history in schools across the nation.