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Why We Celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day

The second Monday in October is Indigenous Peoples Day. As of last year (Oct. 2021), it is a national holiday. I encourage you to read A Proclamation on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, 2021. I hope the words “resilience,” “respect,” and “dignity” jump out for you as they do for me.

If you’re anywhere near my age, you probably learned about Christopher Columbus in school and celebrated Columbus Day in October. You probably heard that he discovered North America (he did not), you learned the names of his three ships, you read about a great feast at which natives celebrated the landing of white men in America, and you probably conflated Columbus with the European pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock nearly 130 years later.

Only in recent years have schools taught other perspectives about Christopher Columbus and other Europeans who colonized North America (took control over the Indigenous people) and forced assimilation of foods and, dare I say, diseases. You can read some of those stories on the European cultural traditions, clothing, website.

Indigenous Peoples Day 2022 Flyer

Click on the image above to open the flyer with information about three Indigenous Peoples Day 2022 events in Seattle.

I think respect is something that every human being wants and deserves to receive. I am very comfortable showing respect for Indigenous peoples instead of honoring a man who caused a great deal of death and destruction to gain wealth. Instead of Columbus Day, I celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.

If you attend public meetings, you are likely to hear an Indigenous Land Acknowledgement near the top of the agenda, recognizing that the meeting is taking place on the ancestral homeland of local tribal members, that most of us are attending as guests, expressing gratitude and appreciation, and honoring the Indigenous people who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial. You can learn more by reading A Guide to Indigenous Land Acknowledgement (Native Governance Center, 10/22/2019).

Aging and Disability Services (ADS) honors, serves, and supports Indigenous people aged 60 and older who live in King County. ADS leaders, planners, and case managers collaborate with local tribal organizations to address essential health and social needs and create sustainable solutions.

In 2017, American Indian/Alaskan Native residents represented 2.1 percent (approximately 47,852) of the 2,044,449 residents of King County. Local Indigenous people identify with more than 40 different tribes. More than 5,170 American Indian/Alaskan Native residents of King County are age 60 or older. You can find a summary of ADS’ work with the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, and Seattle Indian Health Board in our Area Plan.

This Indigenous Peoples Day, please take time to reflect on tribal history, resilience, and dignity, and attend an Indigenous Peoples Day event, if you can. By recognizing the harm that has been brought to Indigenous peoples in this country over hundreds of years is one way to show empathy and build respect and support for all people.

Joe HaileyContributor Joe Hailey chairs the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services. He welcomes input from readers via e-mail (

Interested in joining the Advisory Council? Visit council/ for more information. To apply, click “Join Us” on that page.

Photo credit: Powwow photo at top courtesy of Karen Winston, Aging and Disability Services. Indigenous Peoples Day artwork by Louie Gong.

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Mark Your Calendars

Following are upcoming events in which ADS Advisory Council members will participate: