October 08, 2021

Warren Joins Heinrich, Luján, Torres in Introducing Bicameral Legislation to Commemorate Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Bill Text

Washington, D.C. – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Representative Norma Torres (D-Calif.) in introducing legislation to replace the official holiday recognized on the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The bill (S. 2919) would also replace any mention of Columbus Day in all federal laws or regulations with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

At least 13 states and more than 100 cities have recognized this change including Boston, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Washington, D.C.

“I’m glad to stand with tribal nations, Native communities, and my colleagues to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday of October. This is an opportunity for our country to celebrate the rich cultures, valuable contributions, and remarkable resilience of Native communities,” Senator Warren said. “But we must also honor them by fulfilling our government's trust and treaty obligations.”

The bill is endorsed by the Indigenous Peoples’ Initiative, the National Council of Urban Indian Health, the National Congress of American Indians, the Association of American Indian Affairs, the Navajo Nation, and the All Pueblo Council of Governors.

"If the United States chooses to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we acknowledge a history marked by broken promises, violence, and deprivation in hopes of creating a brighter future where we can stand by one another with cooperation and mutual respect. By knowing the story of Indigenous Peoples, we understand ourselves and others better. It binds us together and reaffirms that we are all American. The Native American experience is not separate from the American story, but is crucial to that story. It is the hope of my community that this day will help alleviate the effects of oppression and work to create future generations who understand the importance of our shared experiences in hopes of creating a stronger, more unified nation,” said Dylan O. Baca, President of the Indigenous Peoples’ Initiative.

“For generations, Indigenous communities throughout the Americas have fought to survive colonization, assimilation, disease, and even genocide. Many of these same atrocities continue today, but the Native peoples of this land continue to be resilient, strong, and prosperous. Recognition of Indigenous People’s Day will help our future generations hold onto our identity and ensure the survival of our cultures, languages, and indigeneity. I believe that the name change from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day will provide young Navajo children with a sense of pride in the beauty they hold within,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathon Nez

“Indigenous People’s Day is long overdue as a recognized Federal holiday. We are honored that this bill recognizes American Indian/Alaska Native culture instead of celebrating the atrocities that persisted during colonization. It is pertinent that the resilient history and culture of AI/AN people is reflected correctly and is not devalued by colonial narratives,” said Francys Crevier (Algonquin), CEO of the National Council of Urban Indian Health.

“We are grateful that Congress is taking this important step forward to acknowledge the contributions and struggles of Indigenous Peoples in the United States. Every opportunity we have to share the truth of our collective histories gives all of us a stronger foundation from which to build a true representative democracy. And we cannot know the truth without first acknowledging the original – and continuing – caretakers of this Turtle Island,” said Shannon O'Loughlin (Choctaw), Chief Executive & Attorney at the Association on American Indian Affairs

In the Senate, the bill is co-sponsored by Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.). In the House, the bill is co-sponsored by Representatives Suzan K. DelBene (D-Wash.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), and Sharice L. Davids (D-Kan.).

For years, Senator Warren has been a leading advocate for Native communities. This year, her efforts have included the following:

  • Last month, Senator Warren, Congresswoman Davids, and Congressman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) reintroduced The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act (S. 2907), legislation that seeks healing for stolen Native children and their communities. Originally introduced by Senator Warren and then-Representative Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) last Congress, the bill would establish a formal commission to investigate, document, and acknowledge past injustices of the federal government's Indian Boarding School Policies.  
  • In August, Senator Warren and Representative Davids sent a letter to the Indian Health Service (IHS) urging the agency to ensure that culturally appropriate supports are in place for survivors and communities affected by the Indian Boarding School Policies.
  • In July, Senator Warren reintroduced a bill, the Reconciliation in Place Names Act (S. 2400), with Representative Al Green (D-Texas) to address land units and geographic features with racist and bigoted names.
  • Senator Warren has been an outspoken supporter of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) Reauthorization Act of 2021, which included provisions from Senator Warren's bipartisan, bicameral American Indian and Alaska Native Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (AI/AN CAPTA) (S. 1868) to help provide tribal nations with resources to combat child abuse and neglect.