Indianz.Com > News > Native Sun News Today: South Dakota marks Native American Day milestone
Participants in the Native American Day parade in Rapid City, South Dakota, on October 9, 2017. This year’s festivities have been canceled due to COVID-19. Photo by James Giago Davies / Native Sun News Today
Native American Day: 30 years
Monday, October 12, 2020
Native Sun News Staff Writer

RAPID CITY — South Dakota has celebrated Native American Day in lieu of Columbus Day since 1990.

The transformed holiday was the result of correspondence between then editor of Indian Country Today, Tim Giago, and George Mickelson, then South Dakota Governor. Along with transforming the holiday to celebrating Native Americans, Giago and Mickelson also established the year 1990 as the Year of Reconciliation given the past racial disputes in South Dakota.

Since 1990, the replacement of Columbus Day by Native American Day or Indigenous Peoples Day has been wide spread. An article by Indian Country Today from 2019 outlined 11 states that have replaced Columbus Day with some form a variation of Native American Day. Hawai’i, for example, celebrates Discoverers Day in honor of Polynesian voyagers. Over 100 cities (including Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio) in the United States have formally replaced Columbus Day as well.

Tim Giago, left, is shown with the late Gov. George Mickelson in this file photo. Giago lobbied the governor to proclaim the Year of Reconciliation in 1990 to honor the 100th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre and to change Columbus Day to Native American Day. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

Columbus Day celebrates colonialism and the person directly responsible for the largest genocide known to man. The celebration of Columbus and the subsequent worshipping of him in school rooms continue to erase indigenous peoples and the negative ways that they are treated.

The transition from Columbus Day to celebrations of indigenous peoples has been met with several different critiques. Opponents of the change cite that Columbus Day is more about Italian-American heritage rather than Columbus himself. Indigenous Peoples Day MA, a coalition pushing for a statewide replacement of Columbus Day in Massachusetts, states on their website that “beyond the fact that Columbus was sailing for the Spanish monarchy since Italy wouldn’t fund his colonial expedition, or that Columbus was responsible for the deaths of millions of Native peoples throughout the Americas, “Columbus Day” is more of a Catholic holiday, pushed for by the Knights of Columbus in 1934 (a Catholic fraternity) than an Italian on.”

They go on to state that Indigenous Peoples Day is not anti-Italian, but rather anti-Columbus. The website even hosts a campaign from Italians for Indigenous Peoples Day.

The Native American Day and other forms of Indigenous Peoples Day movement is one of several different movements that seek to replace symbols that directly stand against Native American culture and history.

Several professional sports teams like the Washington Redskins have changed their names. Some teams, like the Kansas City Chiefs coming off of a 2019 Super Bowl win, still hold out on changing their names but have banned fans from wearing headdresses and performing the famous tomahawk chop.

After the killing of George Floyd in May of 2020, Black Lives Matter (BLM) and other civil rights organizations took to the streets to protest systemic racism in American society and the unfair treatment of blacks by police officers. Native Americans, at the beginning, were not revealed to be a strong ally to BLM’s message. But, in time, several prominent Native American organizations and individuals stepped forward to stand in solidarity against systemic racism within the United States.

Native Americans throughout the country ended up taking to the streets for their own systemic racism issues and felled several statues of Christopher Columbus. Statues in Chicago, Columbus, and Philadelphia either fell or were defaced by protesters.


Support Native media!

Read the rest of the story on Native Sun News Today: Native American Day turns 30

Contact Travis at

Note: Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

Related Stories
Kyle Chase: Celebrating the nation’s first Native American Day (October 9, 2020)