News and Views

Indigenous Peoples Day

Posted by Erik Alsgaard on


As the nation celebrates Columbus Day on Oct. 8, people of faith remember the people who lived on the land when he and other explorers arrived. The General Conference of The United Methodist Church affirms the sacredness of American Indian people, their languages, cultures, and gifts to the church and the world.

Furthermore, we call upon the world, and the people of The United Methodist Church to receive the gifts of Native Americans, including American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians, as people of God.

Join United Methodists across the United States in honoring Indigenous Peoples Day as we seek to fully understand the legacy of Christopher Columbus, respect and learn from indigenous peoples, and support their struggles for social justice and religious freedom. Learn more at:

History of Columbus Day

"Indigenous Peoples Day" re-imagines Columbus Day and offers what could be considered by some as a celebration of colonialism into an opportunity to educate persons about the contributions and history of indigenous peoples in the Americas, to organize against current injustices, and to celebrate indigenous resistance.

The idea of re-imaging Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day was born in 1977, at a U.N.-sponsored conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on discrimination against indigenous populations in the Americas. Fourteen years later, activists in Berkeley, Calif., convinced the Berkeley City Council to declare October 12 a "Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People." Henceforth, there has been a growing movement to appropriate "Columbus Day" as "Indigenous People's Day;" states such as South Dakota, Hawai’i, and Alaska have changed the holiday’s name and many more cities have taken similar action. Read more about the history of Berkeley’s Indigenous Peoples Day.

Ten Ways to Honor Indigenous Peoples Day

  1. Craft a Sunday service around Indigenous Peoples Day. As you plan your service, invite those within your congregation who are Native people to participate in the planning and the service itself. Work to find out the pre- and postcolonial history of the land you are worshiping on and the Native peoples who have lived there.
  2. Build and strengthen connections to nearby Native communities. Make plans to attend an event hosted by a Native group, organization, or cultural center. Find out how your congregation can be of assistance regarding the issues nearby groups are working on or struggling with.
  3. Study the Doctrine of Discovery and work to eliminate its effects. The United Methodist Church condemns the Doctrine of Discovery as a legal document used for the seizing of lands and abusing the human rights of indigenous peoples. The United Methodist Church will work toward eliminating the use of the Doctrine of Discovery. Study and discuss the Doctrine of Discovery  in your congregation and speak against it.
  4. Take action to rename Columbus Day “Indigenous Peoples Day.” South Dakota, Alabama, and Hawaii have renamed Columbus Day. Other states (New Mexico, for one) have come close. Use the web to discover if anyone has tried to change the holiday in your city or state, and form a congregational task force to start or join the movement.
  5. Provide age-appropriate education on Native lives and cultures as part of your congregation’s religious education programming. Take active steps to counter the dominant message that Native peoples are history by offering examples of present-day American Indian life, art, etc. Resources include Giving Our Hearts Away: Native American Survival by Thomas White Wolf Fassett (a resource sponsored by United Methodist Women), On This Spirit Walk: The Voices of Native American and Indigenous Peoples by Henrietta Mann and Anita Phillips, and the “Return to the Earth” project of the Mennonite Central Committee are study guides to culturally relevant American Indian traditions that provide an opportunity for The United Methodist Church to engage in its commitment for Restorative Justice.
  6. Hold a movie screening with a discussion afterward. There are a plethora of films that can generate rich discussion. Check out VisionMaker Video, a video catalog by Native American Public Telecommunications of films by and about Native folks (see, for example, the film Columbus Day Legacy).
  7. Host a congregation-wide common read and book discussion. Possible titles include An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, A Little Matter of Genocide by Ward Churchill, Off the Reservation by Paula Gunn Allen, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, Reinventing the Enemy's Language edited by Joy Harjo and Gloria Bird, The Woman Who Watches Over the World by Linda Hogan, and Soul Work edited by Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley and Nancy Palmer Jones.  You can also find books on the particular tribes in your area—check out this listing of books by tribe from Native Languages of the Americas. For more reading suggestions, visit Bringing the Doctrine of Discovery Back Home.
  8. Engage with “Immigration as a Moral Issue.” Indigenous peoples of Central America are a big part of today’s desperate wave of migration to the United States. Find out how the United States has continued Columbus’s violent legacy of colonialism against Central American peoples. Check out the study guide from Multicultural Growth & Witness.
  9. Begin Building the World We Dream About, a transformational Tapestry of Faith curriculum on race and ethnicity. This program allows participants to take concrete steps to heal, individually and as a congregation, the ways in which racism separates us from one another and spiritually stifles each of us.
  10. Take action for the rights and needs of Native peoples! Visit to learn how.
  11. More Resources
  • Coalition partner: The Friends Committee on National Legislation: This Quaker organization has long sought to live in right relations with Native peoples, working in respectful partnership with them on the issues most important to them.
  • Coalition partner: Amnesty International: Amnesty is devoted to documenting and ending violence against Native women.

 Additional Information from:

Additional Content Credit:



to leave comment