Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

The Importance of Native American Day

Native American Day was first established in South Dakota in 1990 in celebration of the State’s unique culture. It replaced the controversial National Holiday known as Columbus Day. The idea was proposed by the Late Governor George S. Mickelson who proclaimed 1990 as a “Year of Reconciliation.”


The change has prompted many other states and cities to adopt similar designations. According to Cheryl Crazy Bull, the president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, Native American Day is important because it honors and highlights an already flourishing culture in America before it’s discovery by Europeans. 


“People in the United States that still don’t realize that indigenous people are still here," said Crazy Bull. "I think it’s that recognition, the other is there is an opportunity to look at the historical experience that indigenous people have had with the United States and be able to look at both the areas that need to be addressed and remedied like the health disparity or the economic disparities but also to look at the really great things that Native people bring to American Society. You know our understanding of the land, our relationship with the animals and the plant nation, our food sovereignty, all those kinds of things . So I think that’s one part of it, I think the third part is it’s an opportunity to look at shared values because Indigenous peoples really focus on kinship in a relationship and I believe that most people want that.” 


Wisconsin is the latest state to replace Columbus day with Indigenous People’s Day and this is the first year celebrating it.