Berkeley’s Indigenous Peoples Day

Featured image is of the first Indigenous Peoples Day Pow Wow in Berkeley, 1993. An Indigenous Peoples Day Pow Wow has been celebrated annually since. Source: “The First IP Day Pow Wow Picture Album.” From: Archive of Indigenous Peoples Day, (accessed December 7. 2016).  

More and more people have come to view the explorer Christopher Columbus as a perpetrator of genocide against indigenous peoples in the Caribbean. They push back against the national recognition of Christopher Columbus Day. The City of Berkeley in California was the first community to replace Columbus Day with the celebration of Indigenous People’s Day in 1992— 500 years after Columbus’ arrival in the Caribbean.  

At every point of the movement to establish Indigenous Peoples Day in Berkeley, indigenous peoples used respectability politics. Marginalized groups use this organizing strategy to demonstrate that their social values are compatible with “mainstream” values in an effort to secure rights for themselves.

Local and international organizations recognized Indigenous Peoples Day. More than 60 native nations and tribes from 15 countries participated in a United Nations-sponsored conference that inspired the holiday. An alliance between native folks, non-native allies, and Berkeley city government organized Indigenous Peoples Day.


At the 1977 United Nations-sponsored International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas, indigenous peoples recognized a shared history and legacy of colonialism and imperialism and shared hope for the possibility of collaboration in building a future by passing a resolution for an International Day of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples, the inspiration for Berkeley’s 1992 celebration.


Berkeley City Council approved the “Declaration of the City Council of Berkeley, California, Concerning Indigenous Peoples Day” on October 22, 1991. Indigenous Peoples Day was established as a day of remembering, education, and celebration as well as offering an opportunity for collaboration and education on a wide range of social justice issues and building solidarity within the local community.


Berkeley was the first city to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day but it wasn’t the last. This map shows the cities and states that officially recognized Indigenous Peoples Day in 2016.

Further Reading

Curl, John. “The First Indigenous Peoples Day Pow Wow 1993.” Archives of Indigenous Peoples Day. Indigenous Peoples Day Committee, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2016

Rivero, Daniel, and Collier Meyerson. “Here’s a Map of All the Cities and States That Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” Fusion. Fusion Media Network, 10 Oct. 2016. Web. 7 Dec. 2016.

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